Ex-Missouri death row inmate re-sentenced to life in prison

Ex-Missouri death row inmate re-sentenced to life in prison

ST. LOUIS — After maintaining his innocence for more than a quarter of a century, Reginald Clemons admitted Monday that he took part in the rape and killing of two sisters who were pushed from an abandoned St. Louis bridge into the Mississippi River.

Clemons spent 22 years on death row before the Missouri Supreme Court threw out the conviction in 2015 after finding that prosecutors suppressed evidence that police had beaten a confession out of him. His case drew support from prisoners’ rights organizations and legal groups.

But on Monday, he pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of rape and one count of first-degree robbery. Under a plea agreement, Clemons, 46, was sentenced to five consecutive life sentences.

Asked by Circuit Judge Rex Burlison if the allegations against him were true, Clemons replied “Yes, your honour,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“There’s no happy ending for this family that has been through so much, but I was relieved that he finally owned up to what he did,” former St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, who made the decision to re-try the case, said.

Julie Kerry, 20, and her 19-year-old sister, Robin, were visiting the abandoned Chain of Rocks bridge with a male cousin, Thomas Cummins, late on the night of April 4, 1991. They encountered Clemons, who was 19 at the time, along with his cousin, Antonio Richardson, and two friends, Marlin Gray and Daniel Winfrey.

Clemons and his friends robbed Cummins of money and a watch, and they took turns raping the Kerry sisters. They then led the three through a manhole to a substructure of the bridge, from which they pushed the sisters into the river and forced Cummins to jump.

Julie Kerry’s body was found three weeks later, 150 miles downriver. Robin Kerry’s body was never recovered. Cummins was able to swim to shore.

Winfrey received a 30-year sentence in exchange for his co-operation and has since been paroled. Gray was executed in 2005. Richardson’s death sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole.

The sisters’ mother, Ginny Kerry, was among those at Monday’s hearing.

“I’m glad it’s over,” she told the Post-Dispatch. “And I’m glad he’s finally admitted he’s guilty. I’m tired of all the lies.”

Joyce said Ginny Kerry attended every hearing for Clemons, each time being forced to re-hear the horrors her daughters experienced.

“I can’t imagine a worse torture for a family to go through,” Joyce said.

Clemons’ attorney, public defender Brian Horneyer, didn’t immediately reply to a message seeking comment.

Clemons was convicted in 1993 and sentenced to death. But he maintained his innocence, and many believed him. An organization called the “Justice for Reggie Campaign” updated supporters on developments in his court case and raised money for his defence.

“I was stunned by the news — it literally took my breath away,” campaign co-ordinator Jamala Rogers wrote in an email to supporters after the guilty plea. “There are lots of emotions and many questions raging inside me right now and you probably feel the same.”

At a 2012 hearing, Clemons testified he was beaten so badly during an interrogation that he admitted to the crime just so the beatings would stop. But asked 32 times by a prosecutor about the events that night, Clemons answered, “Under the advice of counsel I plead the Fifth.”

In 2015, a “special master” appointed by the state Supreme Court found no direct evidence that Clemons didn’t participate in the killings, but ruled that procedural errors in the original trial merited a retrial.

death row

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta is on pace to administer more than 300,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses per week, according to the provincial government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
One million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in Alberta

Alberta hit a milestone in the fight against COVID-19 this week. As… Continue reading

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Interior work will start this year on Red Deer hospital project, says infrastructure minister

‘We are committed. This is a top priority,’ says Presad Panda

Even with recent restrictions due to rising COVID-19 variant case levels, about 95 per cent of businesses are open in Alberta, said Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Consistent pandemic policy has helped Alberta, premier says

Alberta fatality rate lower than Canadian average

People play on the rocks on a calm Lake Ontario near Humber Bay during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadian emissions to make up outsized portion of what climate can bear: study

Canadian emissions to make up outsized portion of what climate can bear: study

In this Monday, Feb. 1, 2021 file photo, emissions from a coal-fired power plant are silhouetted against the setting sun in Independence, Mo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Charlie Riedel
Canadian emissions to make up outsized portion of what climate can bear: study

Canadian emissions to make up outsized portion of what climate can bear: study

People wear face masks as they walk in a park in Montreal, Sunday, April 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Premier Francois Legault softens rules for outdoor mask use following criticism

Premier Francois Legault softens rules for outdoor mask use following criticism

A empty classroom is pictured at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Monday, March 23, 2020. The Alberta government says schools in Calgary will move to at-home learning starting Monday for students in grades 7 to 12.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
‘Operational pressures:’ Calgary schools shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12

‘Operational pressures:’ Calgary schools shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on April 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Italian-Canadians to get formal apology for treatment during Second World War

Italian-Canadians to get formal apology for treatment during Second World War

Heartfelt messages are left on a table as people come out to mark International Overdose Awareness Day during a mass group naloxone training seminar at Centennial Square in Victoria, B.C., on Saturday August 31, 2019. nbsp;When British Columbia's provincial health officer declared an emergency into the overdose crisis five years ago, he said it was because those who died deserved more of a response. Since then, Dr. Perry Kendall says roughly 7,000 died unnecessarily. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
7,000 more overdose deaths since B.C. declared public health emergency in 2016

7,000 more overdose deaths since B.C. declared public health emergency in 2016

A vial of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine dose is shown at a facility in Milton, Ont., on March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Ontario sees vaccine supply issues, Ottawa keeps AstraZeneca on the market

Ontario sees vaccine supply issues, Ottawa keeps AstraZeneca on the market

Storage tanks are shown at the Marathon Petroleum Corp. refinery in Detroit on April 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Paul Sancya
U.S. oil comprised 77 per cent of Canada’s foreign oil imports last year: regulator

U.S. oil comprised 77 per cent of Canada’s foreign oil imports last year: regulator

Most Read