KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) — There is new information in a construction site fire which ultimately killed 6 Kansas City Firefighters back in 1988.Play Video
There is new information in a construction site fire which ultimately killed 6 Kansas City Firefighters back in 1988.
Two security guards who worked at the construction site are named in a 2011 DOJ report.
The government document previously blacked out names, paragraphs, and even full pages from public view.
“During its review, the review team identified several newly-developed pieces of information that were not previously known to the prosecution. Significantly, this newly-developed information suggests that Deborah Riggs and [Donna] Costanza may have been involved in the arsons in addition to –and not to the exclusion of—the defendants.”
In response to news reports Tuesday regarding information related to the Kansas City firefighters’ case, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office is issuing this statement:
“Our office was asked to review this new evidence for possible charges against two additional suspects. We believe a review is warranted given that no statute of limitations exists for murder. “
A new court decision forced the less redacted version to be released.
The case was handled by attorneys at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, Stephanie Sankar and Megan Egli.
“At the end of the day the government wanted everyone to take it on faith that their conclusions were supported,” said Egli. “For the citizenry to know what its public officials and what the government is doing is so important for our government, for our democracy, for our way of life.”
Reaction from those connected to the case was immediate.
“I hope that this will give us and the city and opportunity to really know what happened. And I hope that this can bring some relief to the victims to the families of the firefighters,” Cyndy Short said.
Short is an attorney who represents defendant Bryan Sheppard, who previously served federal prison time in this case.
History of 1988 Fire
Kansas City Firefighters were battling a construction fire at 71 Highway and 87 Street in the early morning hours in darkness. They had no idea trailers were packed with explosives, a mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil. The trailers exploded instantly killing six firefighters.
The blast was so powerful it shattered windows at nearby homes, moved houses off foundations and left a crater in the ground.
The cause of fire was ruled “arson,” but the case remained a mystery for close to a decade. It was eventually featured on “Unsolved Mysteries” along with a $50,000 reward. Posters went up in jails asking for information.
It was a tough case with no physical evidence and no eyewitnesses.
Eventually, five self-described troublemakers from the nearby Marlborough neighborhood were indicted by a grand jury. Witnesses claimed some defendants bragged about the crime others showed remorse.
The prosecution theory of the case was the group wanted to steal tools and set a fire as a diversion.
The “Marlborough 5” always maintained their innocence and turned down plea deals. Those offered lie detector tests passed. Critics point out prosecution witnesses were offered deals and even cash for testimony.
Even though there were convictions, the case never really went away.
New theory in the case- the guards
Mike McGraw worked at the Kansas City Star. He was a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who died in 2018.
McGraw’s reporting exposed allegations of false testimony and coercion.
Much of his reporting is backed in the newly released DOJ report.