Cleaver urges anyone with info about 1988 arsons that killed 6 firemen to come forward

By Luke Nozicka Kansas City Star Feb. 2nd, 2022

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver on Wednesday urged anyone with information about the 1988 explosion that killed six Kansas City firefighters to come forward following reports that two other suspects may have been involved. In a statement, Cleaver, who was mayor pro tem at the time of the explosion, also said he prays that the loved ones of the firefighters are “able to find peace of mind.”

“In this case, every disclosure seems to point to the reality that we may never have complete closure — which breaks my heart for the families of the six firefighters who tragically lost their lives on that awful day in 1988,” he said.

Cleaver’s comments followed reports this week that Justice Department records, which were recently released through court order, show investigators a decade ago found new information to suggest that two security guards, Debbie Riggs and Donna Costanza, “may have been involved in the arsons” as part of an attempted insurance fraud.

Attempts by The Star to reach Riggs and Costanza have been unsuccessful. Both have previously denied any involvement, and federal prosecutors say the allegations against them have been thoroughly investigated. 

The DOJ records stem from a review launched in response to a series of stories written in 2007 by The Star, which raised questions about the convictions of five people in the case.

At the time, Cleaver said he supported reopening the investigation. “If we don’t reopen this case,” Cleaver told The Star in 2008, “I think this community will scream for justice. If we fail to investigate this now, it is one of the most blatant malfunctions of justice we have ever seen in this city.”

In 2017, Bryan Sheppard, who was convicted in the explosion and has maintained he and his four co-defendants are innocent, filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department after he was refused records pertaining to its review of the case, which ended in 2011. Last fall, a federal judge ordered the DOJ to release some of its records. They were provided to reporters this week. After news reports about the records surfaced, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office said it was asked to review the evidence for charges against other potential suspects. 

“We believe a review is warranted given that no statute of limitations exists for murder,” the office said.

Online newspaper and magazine cms software