Thanks to the flawed justice system in place, there are several innocent men and women incarcerated for crimes they did not commit. Here’s the story of Kenny Waters and how the poor judgement of authorities lead to his wrongful imprisonment.
Kenny Waters spent 18 years of his life behind bars for a crime he did not commit. There was insufficient evidence, but he was put in prison in spite of that. After his sister graduated from law school, she made it her life mission to set him free. He was released in 2001, but died from a freak accident involving a head injury six months later.
In May 21, 1980, Katherina Reitz Brow was brutally murdered in her home in Ayer, Massachusetts. Her body was discovered at 10:45 in the morning with multiple stab wounds and blood splatter all over the place. Her valuables including cash kept in an envelope were missing.
The Crime Scene Investigators (CSI) have been called to investigate the home upon the discovery of her body. The investigators assigned to the case were able to find several hairs and fingerprints that did not belong to the victim. The murder weapon – a bloody pairing knife was found in the trash. (Source: The Innocence Project)
Kenneth “Kenny” Waters was the top suspect because he lived right next door to the victim. He was then living with his girlfriend Brenda Marsh and they both worked at a local diner where the victim (Brow) would frequent. According to other staff and workers at the diner, people knew that the victim kept large sums of money in her home.
A day after the crime, the police called Kenny Waters in for questioning. His fingerprints were also taken during this time. He was then examined for any cuts, marks, and blood stains that may link him to the Brow’s murder.
Kenny Waters gave the police a solid alibi, stating he was at work on the morning of her murder. This was around 8:30 am. A co-worker drove Kenny home that morning to change clothes to meet his attorney at the Ayer courthouse at 9:00 am. He left the venue at 11:00 am and returned to the diner after, placing him far away from Brow’s location up until 12:30 pm. The police did not have sufficient evidence to press charges. He was released shortly after.
Four months after the murder, the police called Kenny back to submit a voice stress test. A voice stress test is similar to a polygraph. It was meant to detect deception, but has been quite controversial in use. Regardless, he accepted and passed the test. (Source: Prison Legal News)
By October 1982, Robert Osborne, the boyfriend of Brenda Marsh at the time, approached the police with information on Brow’s murder. Osborne convinced the police that Kenny Waters confessed about the heinous crime to Brenda after returning home with a deep scratch on his face. With just this information, the police arrested Kenny Waters.
The trial began around May in 1983. During this time, the police had the hair, blood and fingerprints that were found in the scene analyzed. According to the prosecutors, the evidence found was not relayed over to Kenny’s legal counsels and they simply proceeded with the trial under the assumption that there was not enough evidence to convict.
Sadly, the court relied on mere testimonies of several witnesses. Two of which included Kenny Waters’ exes – Brenda Marsh and Roseanna Perry. Both women claimed that Waters confessed about the murder and admitted to stealing from Brow as well.
During this time, forensic science was not as advanced as today. DNA testing was not yet accessible. It was hard to prove his innocence. He was convicted for a crime he did not do.
Kenny Waters made several appeals from 1983 up until 1999, but to no avail. His sister Betty Anne Waters, a single mother, took it upon herself to go to law school and take matters into her own hands. She never gave up on Kenny and was dead set on setting him free.
In 1999, Betty Anne was able to obtain a court order to acquire the blood evidence and send it in for DNA testing, which was already available. The DNA testing results showed that none of the evidence found at the scene were Kenny’s. He was finally released in March 15, 2001 after serving his sentence for 18 years, 5 months and 3 days.
Unfortunately, Kenny Waters passed after six months of his release due to a head injury from an accidental fall.
Betty Anne Waters filed a federal case against the police officers of Ayer: Philip Connors and Nancy Taylor-Hariss for wrongfully arresting her brother. By September 2009, the court awarded damages to the Waters family that amounted to $6,729,000 (approximately $1,000 per day that Kenny Waters had been incarcerated), $1 Million for physical illness and injuries he may have incurred during his time in jail, and $3 Million for any pain and suffering – bringing it to a total of $10.73 Million. (Source: Prison Legal News)
In 2010, a movie of Kenny Water’s story was made by Pamela Gray and Tony Goldwyn. Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell played the roles of Betty Anne and Kenny Waters respectively. (Source: IMDB)