Sentence reduced for man convicted in 1988 Kansas City fire

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV/AP) - March 3, 2017

The youngest of five people convicted in a 1988 arson fire that killed six Kansas City firefighters could be released from prison soon.

A federal judge ruled Friday that Bryan Sheppard, who is now 45, should have his sentence reduced to 20 years in prison. Because Sheppard has already served 22 years, he could be released. Details of his possible release were not available Friday.

Sheppard sobbed in court when the verdict was announced.

He was 17 when he was sentenced to life in prison for the November 1988 explosion.

Sheppard was granted a new sentencing after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled mandatory life sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional unless a judge first considered their individual situation.

Friday's decision was a legal decision. But it's joy for one family who says Sheppard is innocent and heartbreaking for the family of the firefighters.

“What is the difference between whether he was 17 or 18? He repeatedly committed crimes. It's very upsetting,” said Cassandra McKarnin, whose dad died in the explosion.

McKarnin testified she is same age as Sheppard, and she knew right from wrong at 17. Her life sentence never ends.

“We know the law is in his favor as a juvenile. We were prepared for this, but this is an incredible disappointment,” she said.

Sheppard's daughter is overjoyed.

“I look forward to a new life with my father and family,” Ashley Kenney said.

Kenney read a statement from her father to the families of those fallen firefighters

“To them, I want to say I am so sorry for everything you have been through. I hope someday you will see the truth and find the closure you deserve,” she read.

The five people sentenced in the case have long maintained their innocence.

Another man convicted in the explosion is just a few months older than Sheppard. His father was in court and says he should be released too. His son has also passed a lie detector test proving he’s innocent.

Sheppard's mother, Virginia Sheppard, said she was stunned and never thought she would see this day.

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