A Kansas father convicted of murder 12 years ago walked out of prison on Thursday after a judge exonerated him based on prosecutorial misconduct during his trial. Even the judge cried at Olin “Pete” Coones’ innocence hearing, The Kansas City Star reported. Coones had been convicted of killing Kathleen Schroll, a caretaker to Coones’ father, who quickly took over the father’s bank account and assets when he died. Shortly before police found Schroll and her husband dead in their home, Schroll had called her mom to say Coones was in her house threatening to kill her.
The Daily Beast covered Coones’ case last year, including a wrongful conviction petition filed by his lawyers that argued Schroll actually committed a murder-suicide and deliberately framed Coones in her own “Machiavellian” plot. The lawyers presented new evidence that Schroll had been embezzling money from her work, and was under scrutiny for fraud and financial abuse of Coones’ father just before she died. Gunshot residue tests that supported Coones’ case were never presented to the jury, nor was evidence that a key jailhouse informant was unreliable. No evidence tied Coones to the murder scene, and he had an alibi.