For episode three of season two we discuss the case of Olin “Pete” Coones. Pete spent twelve years of his life in prison for a double murder that was not exactly what it seemed. This is a story of a woman whose world was crumbling around her and in her final moments she chose to extract revenge on her enemies. Her plot worked due to careless investigative procedures and a paltering prosecutor. If you enjoy this episode please visit our website bowtofate.com to stay up to date with current events and episodes.
Information from this episode was gathered from:
In The 29th Judicial District of the State of Kansas; Olin “Pete” Coones vs. State of Kansas; Case No. 2019 CV 727; PETITIONER’S FIRST AMENDED MEMORANDUM OF FACT AND LAW IN SUPPORT OF MOTION TO VACATE, SET ASIDE, OR CORRECT SENTENCE UNDER K.S.A. § 60-1507
In The United States District Court of Kansas; Olin Coones vs. Jay Shelton et al., Case No. 16-3090-JWL; MEMORANDUM & ORDER
Supreme Court of Kansas. STATE of Kansas, Appellee, v. Olin L. COONES, Appellant. No. 107,180. Decided: December 12, 2014
The National Registry of Exonerations- Olin Coones
Audio Clips from:
KCK man exonerated after 12 years in prison says family kept him going. Video by Jill Toyoshiba and Tammy Ljungblad. https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/crime/article249417185.html
Couple Found Shot to Death in KCK Home. KMBC 9. https://youtu.be/EbFz1l_EU6s
Hello and thanks for listening to Bow to Fate- a podcast focusing on true crime with an emphasis on the flaws in our justice system. Today we are going to be talking about the wrongful conviction of Olin “Pete” Coones. Pete was accused of the double murder of Carl & Kathleen Schroll in the early morning hours a April 7, 2008. This case is going to be another rollercoaster of unbelievable events, including a vengeful woman’s ultimate revenge, prosecutorial misconduct, a jailhouse snitch, and sloppy investigative work.
So let’s get started with some background. In 2000 Pete’s father Olin Coones and his sister Patsy Van Vleck were living together in Kansas City Kansas. Pete would later find out that Patsy was really his mother and Olin was actually his grandfather, but at this time he really did not have a lot of contact with the two of them. He was living with his family near Independence, Missouri. Patsy and Olin are living together, and Patsy every once in a while goes down to the local VFW for a few drinks. It was on one of these outings that Patsy met Kathleen Schroll. Kathleen started visiting Patsy at her home that she shared with Olin, her father. Later that same year Patsy reported her silver revolver stolen to the KCKPD. In 2004, Kathleen started working for Patsy and Olin as a housekeeper, both Patsy and Olin were suffering from health issues and Olin was showing the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. Kathleen told them that she worked as a caregiver for the elderly in the past so they welcomed her help.
Then things start to go a bit sideways. On September 19th, 2005, Patsy and Olin signed the deed to their home over to Kathleen. Patsy also made a phone call to her attorney, Clifford DeMoss, around that same time. She asked him to draft a new will for herself and a power of attorney naming Kathleen Schroll as the sole beneficiary. DeMoss drafted the new documents as requested and sent the documents to Patsy for signature, but they were never returned. Two months later in November of 2006, Kathleen had her daughter Blair Hadley move into the house with Patsy and Olin.
In February of 2006, Clifford DeMoss received a phone call from Kathleen Schroll, she told him that Patsy was in the hospital and wanted to see him. When he visited Patsy, he asked her why she had never signed the documents he created. She stated that she did not want Kathleen to be her beneficiary, she did not trust her and felt that she was pulling a fast one on her and Olin. A few days after the visit, on March 6th, 2006 Patsy died in her hospital bed. That very day Kathleen cashed a check purportedly written by Patsy to Kathleen for $200 and Olin withdrew $5000 from his bank account. A few days later Kathleen cashed a check purportedly written by Olin for $3000, a few days after that another check from Olin to Kathleen for $500. Kathleen was slowly draining Olin’s bank account. On April 20th, 2006 the beneficiary of Olin’s $46,000 life insurance policy was changed online to Kathleen, this seemed odd as Olin had never owned a computer and did not have access to the internet.
No one had told Pete Coones of the passing of his sister/mother, Patsy. So in August of 2006 he traveled from his home near Independence Missouri to Kansas City, Kansas to see Olin. When he arrived on Olin’s front steps he was met by Kathleen. Kathleen refused to let him see Olin and refused to let him in the house, which technically was now in her name. Now imagine walking into this shitshow, Pete had no idea what exactly was happening. He had no idea that Olin’s Alzheimer’s had progressed so quickly. He was not told that his sister had died and now some strange woman was not only living in their home, but owned it. He didn’t know what exactly was happening, but anyone could tell that something wasn’t right here. On September 1, 2006, without any other options he filed a complaint with the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services or SRS accusing Kathleen of elder abuse. SRS asked the Kansas City Kansas Police Department to review the case.
While this was happening, a teller at Olin’s bank started to become suspicious of Oiin’s recent transactions. Olin had lived very simply up to this point, but since Kathleen came into his life, she had drained roughly $30,000 out of his accounts and opened several credit cards that were now delinquent. She asked Olin to come down to the bank, he arrived with Kathleen in tow. Kathleen would not allow the bank employee to speak to Olin privately and they got into a screaming match in the lobby of the bank. Eventually Kathleen relented and allowed the employee to speak with Olin alone. Within seconds she realized that Olin was mentally impaired and suffering from Alzhemiers, she immediately locked his accounts and contacted the KCKPD. She later stated that it was the worst case of elder-abuse that she had ever seen.
The KCKPD had assigned Detective Bryan Block to investigate the case of elder-abuse. He had collected over 100 checks that Olin had supposedly written to Kathleen. He asked a handwriting expert with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to review the checks, their analysis stated that most if not all were forged.
On September 12, 2006, Bonnie Keith, a former co-worker of Olin’s, came to visit. Kathleen’s daughter, Blair, would not allow her to see Kathleen. Bonnie kept insisting that she be allowed to see her friend. Finally Blair called her mother, Kathleen came tearing into the driveway in Olin’s truck. Bonnie spoke with Kathleen and was very insistent that she be allowed to take Olin to visit his brother, she promised Kathleen that she would bring Olin back later that day. Finally they relented. When Bonnie Keith saw Olin she was in shock. He was in terrible shape, he had soiled himself, had bed sores all over him and had disturbing long toenails. Bonnie’s husband had to give Olin a shower because he smelled so bad. Bonnie called Pete and the KCKPD. She informed the police that they were taking Olin away from Kathleen and would not be returning him to her custody. Honestly I have no idea at this point how this woman was allowed to care for him. Pete eventually took Olin back to Missouri to live with him and his family. Ultimately SRS concluded their investigation into the elder-abuse complaint, they found that Kathleen had in fact been exploiting Olin.
Two weeks later, an attorney that Pete hired for Olin wrote Kathleen’s attorney a letter asking her to return all of Olin’s property that she and her family had removed from the home, including his vehicles. The next day on September 27th, 2006, Pete went with officers from the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s office to Kathleen’s home to retrieve the property. Then in October the Sheriff’s office helped Pete to retake possession of Olin’s house from Kathleen and evict Blair, Kathleen’s daughter. Feeling the walls closing in on her, Kathleen’s lawyer wrote a letter on October 2, 2006 with an offer for Kathleen to surrender to police, rather than be arrested, if and when charges of elder abuse were formally filed. Unfortunately, three months later in January of 2007, Olin passed away. Pete Coones was the sole heir of Olin’s estate. He found thousands of dollars in credit card debt seemingly run up by Kathleen.
In a sick twist of fate, both Kathleen and Pete filed claims for Olin’s life insurance policy. I mean the gall of this woman, she had to know that this was not going to go well. The policy was worth $46,000, the insurance company looking at the evidence decided to pay out the policy to an account and let Pete and Kathleen litigate the proceeds in court.
During this period, Kathleen was struggling to support her lifestyle, without Olin’s bank accounts to drain, she soon found herself in a never ending loop, where the money she owed exceeded the income she was bringing in. She was working as a systems administrator at the Midwest Regional Credit Union in Kansas City Kansas. On April 30th, 2007, Kathleen and her husband, Carl, who was no longer working, had to take out a second mortgage on their home, they received $27,500 for bill consolidation purposes. Kathleen also started to use pay-day loans to bring in additional cash. For those of you that are unaware, pay-day loans pay you in advance for your next paycheck for extremely high interest rates. By 2008, Kathleen was repaying loans and taking out additional loans to six different pay-day lenders and bouncing checks at the VFW.
In February of 2008 she was in a vicious cycle of debt and doing her best to hide it from her husband, Carl, and the rest of the family. At this point she started embezzling from the bank that she worked at. Her job allowed her access to the checks deposited into accounts each day. Kathleen started depositing checks purportedly written by others made out to herself into her checking account. Then before the day was over she would go to the bundle of checks to be sent off to other banks to be presented for payment and palm the physical checks. She would then alter the electronic check register. The scheme was fairly clever, but it caused her ledger to be consistently off. Her manager asked some questions, but Kathleen just said she was not sure why the ledger was off. No one at the bank suspected Kathleen of theft.
Around this time, Pete and Kathleen had entered mediation over Olin’s life insurance policy and the debts that Kathleen owed to the estate. To settle the matter quickly, Pete had offered Kathleen 25% of the $46,000 life insurance policy to just go away, she was considering the offer, but had not accepted. According to her friends and family, Kathleen hated Pete Coones and was obsessed with ruining him for what he was trying to do to her. She apparently talked constantly about Pete and the situation he was placing her in.
On April 1st, 2008, Pete turned over discovery information to Kathleen. The discovery included over 100 checks that the Kansas Bureau of Investigation had deemed forged by Kathleen from Olin’s accounts. And the results of the SRS investigation that concluded that Kathleen had in fact been abusing Olin.
After receiving this information Kathleen started circulating a story, she told her attorney that she had ran into Pete at a QT and he had threatened her. Telling her she would not be spending any more of Olin’s money.
On Friday, April 4th, 2008, Thad Jones, Kathleen’s manager at the bank became frustrated with Kathleen’s unbalanced ledger. The first quarter was over and their records needed to be submitted for review. Thad Jones told Kathleen that Friday, that if she could not balance the ledger he would help her do it on Monday. Kathleen knew that her theft would be realized the second someone took a look at her books.
The next day, April 5th, Kathleen had to work the morning shift at the bank. She told her co-workers that morning the same story she had told her attorney a few days before, this time changing the date and time. She said that on her way to work, she had ran into Pete Coones at the QT and he had threatened her. Then that afternoon she deposited a check into her own account from a joint account that her and her mother had at another bank. Before she left work that day, she made sure to remove the check from the bundle to go out on Monday. She removed it the same day, despite the fact that it would be her job to go through the checks the following Monday.
On Sunday, April 6th, while talking to her daughter, Blair, she repeated the QT story again, this time changing the time of day. She told Blair the encounter happened after work the following day. She also told her daughter that her and Carl were having marital issues.
At 2:28AM on the Morning of April 7th, Kathleen’s mom, Elizabeth Horton, received a phone call from Kathleen. It was 2:30 in the morning so Elizabeth instantly asked Kathleen what was wrong. She said, “ Pete is here in the house and he said he stole the lawnmower out of the garage. He said he is going to kill Carl and he said he is going to kill me and he said he has got his tracks covered where no one will find out.” Shocked Elizabeth said What? Repeat that, and she does verbatim. “Pete is here in the house and he said he stole the lawnmower out of the garage. He said he is going to kill Carl and he said he is going to kill me and he said he has got his tracks covered where no one will find out.” Elizabeth asked Kathleen if she had called the police, Kathleen said simply NO and the line disconnected. After this Elizabeth woke up her son Randy, who lived with her and he called 911. He told the dispatcher that Pete Coones was at his sister’s home with a gun.
Police arrived at the home of Kathleen and Carl Schroll 15 minutes after Randy placed the 911 call. The front door was partially opened and there were lights on throughout the home. On a small table next to the front door police saw two cell phones seemingly belonging to Carl and Kathleen. Further into the living room, they found the body of Kathleen Schroll, her body lying face up with a silver revolver near her left foot. The cordless phone was near her right foot. She was wearing nurse’s scrubs, jewelry, and her glasses. Kathleen Schroll was dead, she had suffered a gunshot wound to the back of her head.
They found Carl Schroll’s body in the bedroom, his body sprawled across the bed and his legs were dangling off the side. He was shot twice in the torso and he had suffered some sort of wound to the head. A pillow on the bed had two holes in it with stuffing blown out the back side of one and a dark spot on the back from the other. Police surmised the pillow was used as a silencer. The police found no sign of forced entry and no sign of a struggle or fight inside the home, nothing appeared to be missing or out of place.
After seeing the scene a sergeant radioed in to dispatch that they had a possible murder-suicide. That was until the police spoke to Elizabeth Horton, who relayed Kathleen’s phone call and told them about the friction between Pete and Kathleen and the ongoing legal battle they were engaged in. She also told them about Kathleen’s run-in with Pete at the QT in town.
They also spoke with Blair Hadley, Kathleen’s daughter, she again repeated the story of the run-in with Pete at the QT and she identified the silver revolver as belonging to Kathleen. She told police that she carried it in her purse. Police found Kathleen’s purse on the back of the couch opened. In it they also found the letter that her attorney provided to her to turn herself in for elder abuse on Olin Coones. When police ran a trace on the revolver they found that it was reported stolen by Patsy Van Vleck, Pete’s sister/mother in 2000. Blair told police that Patsy had given it to Kathleen and she used it for protection as she was required to take bank deposits to the Federal Reserve. This was complete bullshit of course, Kathleen was never asked to take over bank deposits this was not part of her job. But at this time the police were creating the story, rather than listening to the evidence.
That morning at 7am, police surrounded Pete Coones car as he was driving his children to school and brought them all to the station. Pete waived his right to have an attorney present and spoke openly to the police. He answered their questions about his whereabouts and his history with Kathleen Schroll, but denied any involvement in the murder. He told them that he had been at home all night with his family. His daughter had her boyfriend over that night and he had parked his van behind Pete’s. They had also seen him at around 2am that morning, they were watching TV and he came out of his bedroom to go to the bathroom. Pete’s daughter’s boyfriend also told police that he had heard Pete in his bedroom until about 3:30am typing on his computer.
KMBC News picked up news of the murder later that day.
1. KMBC- Original News Report
Police were still investigating, but it seemed like they were only investigating Pete. While he was being questioned, police searched his home, but found no bloody clothing, guns, or ammunition. They did not find the lawnmower that Kathleen mentioned in the phone call. The clothing he was wearing was taken, but no blood was found. They searched his van and swabbed the steering wheel for gunshot residue, again no gunshot residue was found. Nothing was found that connected Pete to the crime.
Pete’s fingerprints and DNA were not found anywhere in the Schroll home. Only Kathleen’s DNA was found on the revolver. To go even further, police checked the surveillance video at the QT where Kathleen claimed Pete threatened her, but neither Kathleen nor Pete were seen on any of the videos.
The autopsies on Kathleen and Carl were performed by Dr. Erik Mitchell. He determined that Carl had died from two gunshot wounds to the abdomen, the bullets were found in his body. Mitchell also made note of the wound on Carl’s head. He determined the wound came from an edged but not sharp weapon, calling the wound a crushing blow, but said that there was no damage to the skull or brain.
Dr. Mitchell determined that Kathleen had died from the gunshot to the back of the head. He made a note of blood spatter on her glasses, but while washing the body in preparation for autopsy, he washed the blood away. It could not be tested for Carl’s DNA. The wound to the back of Kathleen’s head was oblique, meaning that the gun was held at an angle rather than flush with the back of her head. Her hands were swabbed for gunshot residue, but the swabs were never sent to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation for testing.
In total three bullets were recovered from the bodies, the police determined that a total of four shots were fired from the gun, they never located the fourth bullet.
Despite having no evidence against Pete, on April 9, 2008, two days after the crime, Pete Coones was charged with the murders of Kathleen and Carl Schroll. Pete was 50 years old and was a retired mail carrier. He was in such bad health, that the doctor at the prison made note that he struggled just walking across the room.
In January 2009, Pete went to trial in Wyandotte County District Court. Pete was represented by Patricia Kalb and Edmond Brancart would represent the state. Brancart’s case consisted mostly of the phone call Kathleen made to her mother and the testimony of Kathleen’s daughter, Blair. There was evidence, but none of it pointed to Pete as the perpetrator.
The prosecutor, Edmond Brancart presented to the jury the state’s version of events. He told the jury that Pete had gone to the Schroll home, angry with Kathleen that Olin, Pete’s father/grandfather, had been so generous with her. He had gone there with the intention of getting revenge. That night he had left his home with a blunt weapon with the intention of killing Kathleen. Their theory was that Pete had gotten into the home, hit Carl over the head with the blunt force object, causing the wound to his head and then somehow gotten the gun away from Kathleen and shot Carl, while Kathleen made the phone call to her mother. They did not have a reason why Kathleen would have called her mother rather than 911 or why she would have stood in the living room rather than running out of the house. After shooting Carl, where he used a pillow to silence the gunshots, he then shot Kathleen in the back of the head, apparently this time not caring about the noise.
Dr. Erik Mitchell testified that he conducted an autopsy on the bodies. He testified about the wound to Carl’s head and to the fact that the gunshot wound to the back of Kathleen’s head was not flush, but held at an angle to the back of her head.
Barbara Crim-Swanson, a forensic scientist for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, testified that she had tested Pete’s clothing and shoes for the presence of blood and tissue, but found none. Nor was there any on a ring he was wearing when he was arrested. The cordless phone did not have Pete’s DNA on it either. There was no physical evidence linking Pete Coones to the murders.
Blair Hadley, Kathleen’s daughter, testified and told the jury about her mother’s accounting of Pete confronting her at the Quick Trip gas station. Elizabeth Horton, Kathleen’s mother, testified about the phone call the night of the crime. She told the jury that she did not hear any commotion in the background or any sounds of gunshots.
A detective testified that as part of the initial investigation, he walked around Pete’s house around 6 a.m.—about three and a half hours after the shootings—and did not see Pete’s van.
Patricia Kalb, Pete’s defense attorney presented evidence of Pete’s alibi. Ross Minks, the boyfriend of Mariah Coones, Pete’s college-age daughter, stated that he was staying over the night in question. Ross Minks told the jury that Pete’s van was parked behind the house and his van was in the driveway blocking in Pete. he said that he had the keys to his van were in his pocket all night and he didn’t give them to Pete until the next morning, when Pete asked for them to move the van so he could take his children to school.
Ross and Mariah both testified they were awake, in the living room until about 2:30 or 3 a.m. on the 7th and saw Pete leave his bedroom at 2 or 2:30 a.m. to go to the bathroom. When he came out of the bathroom, he told them not to stay up too late, and then went back to bed.
Ross Minks also told the jury that he was sleeping in a bedroom next to Pete’s and heard Pete typing on his computer and coughing around 3 a.m.
Patricia Kalb also called her own forensic scientist that stated that the velocity of blood spatter found at the scene could not eliminate the possibility that Kathleen took her own life. Kalb also had the forensic scientist point out that the prosecution could have tested biological tissue found on Kathleen’s ring to determine whether it belonged to her and that they could have tested the swabs collected from Kathleen’s and Carl’s hands for gunshot residue.
The prosecutor, Edmund Brancart, countered that Kathleen had no motivation to commit suicide. Brancart told the jury that the facts suggested a murder. He pointed to the fact that there was no suicide note and Kathleen was shot in the back of the head. He left out the fact that Kathleen was drowning in debt, her marriage was in trouble, and her workplace was about to find out that she had been embezzling from them for months. Patricia Kalb could have argued these points had the prosecution disclosed any of this information.
On January 23, 2009, the jury convicted Pete of the murder of Kathleen Schroll, but acquitted him for the murder of Carl. Don’t ask me how they could think that he did not murder Carl, but did murder Kathleen. Pete Coones was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.
Shortly after the trial Patricia Kalb, Pete’s attorney, learned that the prosecution had the results of the forensic analysis and internet searches from Pete’s computer before trial. They showed that Pete had accessed his computer and made searches at 1:07am and 4:51am. Since the detectives drove by Pete’s home around 6am and said that Pete’s van was not there. Kalb argued that the forensic analysis was exculpatory, it proved the detectives were mistaken and Pete was in fact home. She appealed the conviction and claimed that Prosecutor Brancart had committed a Brady violation by not disclosing the results to the defense. The court agreed with her and on June 25th, 2009 ordered a new trial for Pete, because he had been acquitted for Carl’s murder, he could only be re-tried for the murder of Kathleen Schroll.
Kathleen’s estate had remained in probate between Pete’s first and second trial, waiting on the outcome to settle Olin Coones’ life insurance mediation. On February 13, 2009, MRCU filed a claim against Kathleen’s estate. That claim listed the debts Kathleen
owed to MRCU:
a second mortgage, with an original loan amount of $25,000 on April 30, 2007 and a balance of $27,341 as of Kathleen’s death;
a personal loan, with an original amount of $2,500 on September 11, 2007 and a balance of $1,902 as of Kathleen’s death; and,
money embezzled by Kathleen from MRCU, in an amount totaling $11,695
About two weeks before the second trial is set to begin, in December of 2009, Prosecutor Brancart tells Pete’s attorney, Patricia Kalb, that they intended to call a new witness. Surprise, surprise the new witness is a jailhouse snitch. Between Pete’s first and second trial he had been briefly transferred to the Butler County Jail. His cellmate was a man by the name of Robert Rupert. He later told the police that Pete had admitted to killing both Carl and Kathleen Schroll. He met with detectives for over 2.5 hours, they only recorded a 27 minute statement from him.
In the recorded statement, Robert Rupert told detectives what Pete had apparently told him about the crime. He said that Pete crawled out his bedroom window so that no one would notice that he left, just an FYI his wife was in the bedroom with him. He also said that Pete drove his mail Jeep instead of his van. He told detectives that Pete had his wife sell the Jeep right after the crime to get rid of the evidence. This claim is shit, because police were at Pete’s house searching 4.5 hours after the crime. There was no Jeep, because Pete had sold it a year before Kathleen and Carl Schroll were killed. Rupert also told detectives that Pete had killed Carl and Kathleen in the same room and left them side by side in a laundry room in the back of the house. Finally he ended the tape by stating that he never asked for leniency and did not seek anything from anybody, you know just to make it all seem legit.
The next day, December 3rd, 2009, Edmond Brancart emailed Patricia Kalb a list of Robert Rupert’s 12 criminal convictions and two arrests.
At a pre-trial hearing on December 10th, Edmond Brancart the prosecutor told the court that Robert Rupert had sent him one letter, which prompted him to reach out to Rupert’s attorney. Rupert agreed to an interview, but then backed out. Brancart said that was it for him, he was done with Rupert. Then in December, after Robert’s case was over with the Butler County District Attorney and he was unsuccessful in striking a deal, Robert Rupert’s attorney allowed Brancart to speak with his client.
A few days later, this time in a pre-trial hearing relating specifically to Robert Rupert. The prosecutor, Edmond Brancart said and I quote, “I know of no communication with Robert Rupert, period, until December 1st or 2nd, when he was brought here and interviewed.”
Pete’s second trial began on December 15th, 2009. It played out much like the first. Prosecutor Brancart started off by insinuating to the jury that Pete’s grandfather, Olin, may have been happy to give Kathleen gifts. He knew this was not true as he was given the case from the KC Police of elder abuse and he, himself refused to prosecute it.
The major change was Robert Rupert’s testimony. Rupert told the jury that he had shared a cell with Pete, Rupert was facing a possible 47-month prison sentence and was there when Pete arrived on July 2nd, 2009. Rupert stated that his Butler County case was over and he was serving his sentence. He told the jury his motive for reaching out was the severity of the crime- a double murder. His testimony was similar to his recorded statement. His testimony did not align with much of the physical evidence, primarily the position of the bodies, he said they were side-by-side in the laundry room. He also testified that Pete drove his mail Jeep to commit the crime. Pete’s defense attorney called James Rumley to contradict Rupert’s testimony. Rumley said that he bought Pete’s Jeep a year before the shootings. He had an application for a loan, dated April 6, 2007, that he used to buy the vehicle. Rumley also said he used the Jeep every day and he never loaned it to Pete.
Again the defense called Mariah Coones, Pete’s daughter, and Ross Minks, her boyfriend as alibi witnesses. This time they also had the forensic analysis of Pete’s computer to show the jury that Pete was in fact doing internet searches well into the early morning hours of April 7th, 2008.
During closing argument, the prosecutor, Edmond Brancart stated that there was no evidence that Kathleen had a reason to commit suicide. He argued, Kathleen had not put the gun in her mouth or left a suicide note. Adding that she had not called her mother to say goodbye, but to report that Pete had killed Carl and was going to kill Kathleen next. No evidence was brought forward by Pete’s attorney, about Kathleen’s financial troubles or the fact that she was about to be caught for embezzling from the bank.
On December 17, 2009, the jury again convicted Pete of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison. His conviction was upheld by the Kansas Supreme Court in December 2014, but the case was remanded for resentencing. He received a new sentence of 25 years to life, due to a change in the law.
After Pete lost his second trial he enlisted the help of Braden Bell and his partner Carl Folsom to litigate his appeals. Pete also reached out to the Midwest Innocence Project and they agreed to join the cause. In 2018, Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree established a Conviction Integrity Unit to review possible claims of wrongful conviction, Pete immediately wrote and asked them to look at his case.
In October 2020, Pete’s defense team filed a motion to vacate his conviction. The motion outlined a shitload of evidence that the prosecution had failed to disclose or that Pete’s defense attorney, Patricia Kalb, had failed to discover. It also revealed numerous false statements made by the prosecutor Edmond Brancart as well as false testimony by the jailhouse snitch, Robert Rupert, that Brancart knew to be false and failed to correct.
Pete’s new defense team found that:
The Butler County District Attorney’s Office had told Edmond Brancart that Robert Rupert, the jailhouse snitch, was unreliable and mentally unstable.
Robert Rupert asked for a deal from the get go and the Butler County District Attorney offered Rupert a deal of 27 months instead of the 47 he was facing, but Rupert rejected it. He hoped for a better deal and kept pushing for one, until Brancart threatened to jail Rupert if he did not cooperate with him.
Edmond Brancart promised that he would talk with Kansas Department of Corrections officials on Rupert’s behalf. A year after Pete was convicted, Rupert wrote to Brancart complaining that he had broken his promise.
Rupert actually had 28 convictions, not the 12 convictions and two arrests that Brancart had disclosed.
They found three letters written by Rupert during which Rupert asked for an attorney to advise him on cooperating, for safeguards if he were to testify, and offered to inform on another inmate who was also accused of a double murder, if they were not interested in Pete Coones.
Rupert had claimed in a letter that Pete told him he used a semi-automatic pistol and that police had found an extra shell casing at the scene. That casing was already in the gun and was automatically ejected when Pete first pulled back the slide to arm the gun
Rupert also originally said that Pete told him he had been intercepting the mail of Kathleen’s daughter after the shooting. Just a reminder the gun found was a revolver and Pete was taken into custody just a few hours after the shooting, he could not have intercepted anyone’s mail.
Pete’s defense team also alleged that Edmond Brancart solicited perjury from Robert Rupert when he asked him if there had been any attempt to interview Rupert in August 2009 when Rupert wrote his first letter and up to December when Rupert gave his statement. Rupert said there was not, even though Brancart had called and emailed Rupert’s attorney on August 31, September 4, September 8, September 10 about getting Rupert’s cooperation.
They also found that Edmond Brancart knew that Rupert’s Butler County case was still pending. But, he asked him questions as if it were over to suggest to the jury that Rupert was not testifying in an attempt to get leniency.
The new defense teams also found:
The 120 checks written from Olin’s bank account to Kathleen that the Kansas City Police had found. A handwriting analyst concluded that 115 of them were forged, likely by Kathleen.
Kathleen was going to be confronted by her supervisor at the bank on the morning of April 7th, 2009- just a few hours before she died, because she had embezzled more than $11,000 from them.
Kathleen had also claimed to once work at a company that provides assisted living services to the elderly and disabled, but never did. This went to her credibility, she often told lies to her friends and family.
They stated that evidence of Kathleen’s embezzlement and the forged checks had been made part of the record in Pete’s grandfather’s probate case, so Patricia Kalb, Pete’s attorney, should have found them. There were also several witnesses who could have provided information about Kathleen’s embezzlement, forgeries and serious debts, but they were never interviewed. Patricia Kalb never hired an investigator.
When Pete’s new defense team started to review the evidence they found the contents of Kathleen’s purse had never been inventoried by police or examined by his original attorney, Patricia Kalb. When they examined the purse, which was still in evidence, they found copies of 11 checks that had bounced and other evidence showing that she was embezzling. There was evidence of outstanding payday loans, all of which showed that Kathleen struggling to pay her bills. Further evidence of a reason for suicide
Most shocking though was the discovery of a fourth bullet. It was still lodged in the pillow with the stuffing hanging out. The pillow was in evidence as well and when the defense examined it, they found a bullet.
Dr. Erik Mitchell, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy, was able to review the evidence of the newly-discovered bullet, as well as all the surrounding circumstances of Kathleen’s life. He concluded that the injury to Carl’s head was not a blunt-force injury, but was a graze wound from the bullet found in the pillow.
The defense asked Dr. Susan Roe, another pathologist, to review the evidence as well. Dr. Roe concluded that the likely manner of death was suicide. Dr. Roe noted that if someone had shot Kathleen from behind, she would have fallen forward or sideways. But her body had fallen backwards, conflicting with someone shooting her from behind.
Dr. Roe also concluded that blood smears l on Kathleen’s right hand likely came from when she tried to shoot Carl in the head, but the bullet just grazed him, probably waking him up. Then, during a struggle, she shot him twice in the abdomen. Dr. Roe noted that Kathleen’s glasses had blood on the front of the lenses, which likely came from when she shot Carl. The blood on the glasses had been noted, but the glasses had been washed before the blood could be tested.
Pete’s new defense team also tested the gunshot residue kits. The tests showed no residue on the steering wheel of Pete’s van and that Kathleen had gunshot residue on her left hand, but not on her right hand.
On November 5, 2020, following a hearing on the motion to vacate the sentence, Wyandotte County District Court Judge Bill Klapper vacated Pete’s conviction. The prosecution dismissed the charge and Pete was released that very day.
Judge Klapper admonished the prosecutor and the investigators in this case. He agreed that Edmond Brancart solicited perjury from Robert Rupert and failed to disclose a litany of information to the defense. He stated that the fact that the missing fourth bullet sitting in an evidence room for 12 years was clear evidence of less than reasonable investigative skills by police. He could not state that Patricia Kalb failed to perform a satisfactory job defending Pete Coones because Prosecutor Brancart withheld so much information in this case.
The Kansas City Star interviewed Pete after his release, here he is speaking about his family and his case.
2. Kansas City Star- Pete Coones
I cannot believe that someone could hate another person so much that they would be willing to murder their spouse then kill themselves in an attempt to get their just deserts. Pete obviously loved his wife and she loved him more than anything. I just wish Kathleen would have felt the same about Carl. This case was incredible. Reading through the transcripts, I found it hard to believe that two separate juries would convict Pete of killing Kathleen, especially since there was so much pointing to the fact that she killed herself. The original investigators on the scene even thought it to be a murder-suicide right off the bat. So much was suppressed, Kathleen was able to get her revenge on Pete, sending him to prison unjustly for twelve years, what sort of person does this? And then just 108 days after he was released from prison, in a cruel twist of fate Pete Coones died February 21, 2021.
His attorneys issued a statement that Pete had been released in a body that was broken. Their statement to press read “Though Pete was no longer imprisoned, his death — like his unjust conviction — is the result of continued state neglect and mistreatment, the evidence suggests that he ultimately succumbed to health conditions that went undiagnosed and untreated during his time in prison.”
Pete’s defense team highlighted that Kathleen wanted the crime to look like a double murder, not only for revenge, but because she wanted her family to have access to her and Carl’s life insurance money. There was a clause in the policies that would stop the policies from paying out if it were a murder-suicide. Kathleen likely knew that the bank and her creditors would go after her estate after she died. In her crazy mind she probably thought that she was doing her best to make sure she left something for her daughter and granddaughter.
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