In 1988, six firefighters in Kansas City, Missouri, were killed in a blast at a highway construction site. Nine years later, five people were convicted of setting the fires that led to the deaths.  

And now, almost 30 years later, Reveal investigates problems in the case: There was no physical evidence linking the five to the crime, and their convictions were based on witness testimony – a lot of it conflicting.  

We start with a look back at the early morning hours of Nov. 29, 1988. The Kansas City Fire Department was responding to a 911 call about a fire at a construction site. Soon after firefighters arrived, a massive blast occurred. Forty minutes later, a second blast rang out. So what caused the blasts? Fifty-thousand pounds of ANFO (ammonium nitrate and fuel oil).

Federal agents and local police immediately suspected arson and began an investigation that would last for eight years.

From the beginning, the investigation was troubled. The first attempt to convict someone fell apart shortly after indictment. Investigators were relying on jailhouse informants and a tips hotline to collect evidence. This information resulted in the indictment and conviction of five people: Bryan Sheppard, Darlene Edwards, Frank Sheppard, Earl “Skip” Sheppard and Richard Brown. They were sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.

But now, the youngest has a chance at freedom. Bryan Sheppard was 17 at the time of the explosions, and the Supreme Court has ruled that it’s unconstitutional to give a juvenile a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. He will be resentenced in a few weeks, and Reveal will be there to follow up.


  • Read: KCPT special projects reporter Mike McGraw’s two-part series exploring the 1988 Kansas City explosion
  • Discover: The play that was inspired by McGraw’s years of reporting


Support for Reveal is provided by The Reva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Mary and Steven Swig.

  • Camerado-Lightning, “True Game (Reveal show theme)” from n/a (Cut-Off Man Records)


Reveal transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. Please be aware that the official record for Reveal’s radio stories is the audio.

 Section 1 of 5          [00:00:00 – 00:10:04]
(NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)


Al Letson:From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. Two explosions shook Kansas City nearly 30 years ago, killing six firefighters.


Dispatcher:Pumper 41, Pumper 30 … answer.


Al Letson:Five people were sentenced to life in prison. But there are questions about the verdict.


Victor:It’s almost as though no two witnesses told the same story.



Al Letson:


Today, one man’s bid for freedom is opening old wounds.


Suspect:I’m not gonna confess to a crime that I did not commit. I’ll tell everybody all the things that I’ve done wrong in my entire life, but I did not commit this crime.


Woman:This gentleman needs to spend the rest of his life in jail. He took six lives.


Al Letson:That’s next on Reveal. But first, this news.



Jenna Welch:


Support for Reveal comes from Audible, presenting Ponzi Supernova. This original audio documentary series tells the story you think you know. Bernie Madoff, legendary fraudster, is sent to prison for orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in history. But that’s definitely not the full story. Drawn from hours of unheard conversations with Bernie behind bars, and interviews with the SEC, the FBI, and the victims of his scheme, Ponzi Supernova takes you on a fascinating journey into the dark interior of our financial system. A six-part Audible original series, Ponzi Supernova is available on channels. To listen, go to Audible and Amazon Prime members listen free.



Al Letson:


From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson.


It was one of the biggest highway projects that Kansas City, Missouri had seen in years. A 10-mile, six lane corridor running south from the heart of the city. To widen the existing road, the construction company brought in huge earth-movers, and thousands of pounds of explosives to blast through the limestone hillsides.


[00:02:00]Then, early in the morning, on November 29, 1988, a call comes in to 911.


911 Operator:Fire Department.


Security Guard:Yes. I want to report a fire.


911 Operator:Where about?


Al Letson:Two security guards, working at the construction site, are on the line.



Security Guard:


Yeah, there’s a fire on both sides of the highway, is it 873?


911 Operator:87 to 79, what department? Okay, we don’t have views there. Thank you.


Al Letson:The 911 operator quickly notifies the fire department and they rush a crew to the scene, Pumper truck 49.


Fire:41 to Dispatcher.


Al Letson:The firefighters spot a pick-up truck in flames, and a second fire.


Fire:There appears to be two arson fires out here. Send the police.


Al Letson:Two arson fires.





Pumper 41, use caution. We have information there may be explosives in that construction area, the pick-up truck …


Al Letson:The explosives are packed into two construction trailers. Another firetruck arrives. Pumper number 30. As both crews begin to battle the flames, the battalion chief reports a powerful blast.


Chief:[inaudible 00:03:20] the dispatchers.


Dispatcher:Are you reporting an explosion, you need extra [inaudible 00:03:24]?


Chief:10-4. And we’re going to need ambulances.


Dispatcher:10-4. Is that for firefighters?





10-4. We’ve blown the windshield straight out of our car, and we’re a quarter-mile away.


Male:[inaudible 00:03:37] reports a major explosion. We heard it here. Firefighters are involved out of the 71 highway, and 87. Large explosion.


Dispatcher:Pumper 41 or Pumper 30, answer. Pumper 41 or Pumper 30.


Al Letson:There’s no answer from either crew.


Dispatcher:36, Pumper 37 … [crosstalk 00:04:03]



Al Letson:


Authorities cordoned off the area. 40 minutes pass. Then the second explosion rocks the site, breaking gas lines and shattering building foundations miles away. Emergency crews, investigators, and news reporters arrive as the morning sun reveals a charred landscape.


Reporter:The only thing left out of the two firetrucks on the scene is the front end of one pumper, everything else is gone. So again, no …


Reporter:At about 12:30 this afternoon, a contingent of firefighters rolled in. Their job was the hardest one today, to bring out the remains of six of their friends.





Everything was pretty much leveled within probably a 100-yard radius.


Al Letson:Victor [Zen 00:04:43] is a retired Kansas City homicide detective. He was at the scene that day.


Victor:In addition to the bomb squad, they also cadaver dogs looking for individuals that may have been blown apart.


Al Letson:Six firefighters died in the explosions, the youngest was 31. The oldest, 57. It was the worst tragedy in the history of the Kansas City fire department.





This was a huge, huge crime that took place, and there was going to be a lot of time and effort put in to finding the right people that did it.


Al Letson:Nine years later, five people were convicted. Not for murder, but for aiding and abetting arson that led to the deaths of the firefighters. A federal judge sentenced them to life in prison, without the possibility of parole.


[00:05:30]But from the beginning, the case was troubled. First, there was no physical evidence linking the suspects to the crime, and there was conflicting testimony, a lot of it, from convicted felons and jailhouse informants. To this day, nearly 30 years after the explosions, the four surviving defendants maintain their innocence. They’re not alone. Some of the very people who helped put them behind bars questioned the verdict. This issue has taken on a new sense of urgency. In less than two weeks, a federal judge will decide whether to grant freedom to one of the defendants. We’re going to spend the next hour on this case. And our guide is Reveal’s Jenna Welch. Hey, Jenna.



Jenna Welch:


Hello Al.


Al Letson:So, Jenna, you grew up right outside Kansas City. Where were you when all this happened?


Jenna Welch:I was home. But when I woke up that morning, it was all over the news. I mean, the blast, people felt them for miles. These explosions weren’t bombs, authorities believe the explosions happened by accident when the fires were set. They spread to trailers that were packed with explosives from the construction company that had them on site to widen the highway.


[00:07:30]The type of explosive was ANFO, which is a combination of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil. Now, I knew what ammonium nitrate was, I grew up in farm country, it’s a fertilizer. But when you mix that with fuel oil, it becomes ANFO, which is used in mining, or in this case, excavating. And it can be deadly.


Al Letson:ANFO. That’s what Timothy McVeigh used to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City?


Jenna Welch:Yeah. I mean, he built a bomb using about 5,000 pounds of ANFO. Now, if you multiply that by 10, that’s the amount of ANFO that exploded in Kansas City that morning.


Al Letson:Okay, so all of this happened almost 30 years ago. Why go back into the case now?


Jenna Welch:Well, last year I directed a play about the explosion and it’s aftermath as part of a project at Reveal called Story Works, where we create theater pieces based on investigative reporting. And for this project we worked with Mike McGraw. Now Mike is a veteran investigative reporter in the Kansas City area. He worked for the Kansas City Star for many years, and now he works for Kansas City Public Television. And Mike’s reporting has raised serious questions about the handling of the investigation, and after the play we decided to dig deeper.


One of the things we found is that there are still scars that haven’t healed for the five people who were sent to prison 20 years ago, and their families, and of course, for the families of the fallen firefighters.



Al Letson:


So, Jenna, take us back to the start.


Jenna Welch:I’d like to begin in downtown Kansas City. At a fountain that commemorates fallen firefighters, including the six that died that die; Gerald Halloran, James Kilventon Jr., Thomas Fry, Luther Hurd, Robert McKarnin, and Michael Oldham.


Joe Galetti:[inaudible 00:08:27] The fountain was all built.



Jenna Welch:


I’ve come here with Captain Joe Galetti. Joe knew all of them. He even worked with some of their fathers. He’s made it his mission to keep their memory alive.


Joe Galetti:We chose this site because it overlooks Kansas City. The statues that we’re looking at, they call in the sculpture world, of heroic size. So that’s just a little bit larger than men.


Jenna Welch:Joe retired in 1994. He has trouble breathing now and can’t stand for very long.


Joe Galetti:And we … I’m going to have sit down. Firefighting has taken its toll on me.



Jenna Welch:


He helped raise more than $300,000 to get the memorial built.


Joe Galetti:And when we opened the fountain, we closed the streets, and we had a show. We had firefighters, we had music, we had coffee, tea, drinks. It was quite a celebration.


Jenna Welch:Building the memorial for the firefighter was a lot easier than finding the people responsible for their deaths. Remember, there was no physical evidence. No eye witnesses.


[00:10:00]Early on, Kansas City Police started looking at a group of suspects from a working-class neighborhood near the construction site, called Marlborough. Three of them were members of the same family, the Sheppards. Bryan Sheppard was 17 at the time. He had had several brushes with the law. In fact, during the time police were investigating the explosions, Bryan was convicted for stealing a bicycle and violating probation.


Reporter:Bryan Sheppard is in jail already, serving …


Jenna Welch:Local media start-


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Speaker 1:Bryan Sheppard is in jail already, serving-


Julia B. Chan:Local media started reporting that he was a suspect in the firefighter’s case.


Speaker 1:He was scheduled to be released next week. Investigators and prosecutors were reportedly charged him with arson and murder, before he walks.


Julia B. Chan:So what was the evidence against Bryan Sheppard? Two men who’d met him in jail said that Bryan bragged about starting the fires. Based on their testimony, the state of Missouri indited Bryan on six counts of murder. But within a couple of months, the case fell apart. One of the informants, a man named John Driver, said on television that he’d lied to the police.



John Driver:


98% was made up. So it’s fictitious.


Julia B. Chan:The inmates said the police wanted a conviction badly, and promised to reduce his jail sentence.


John Driver:The statement was made by the police officers, was someone’s gonna pass the burn for this. They were getting a lot of pressure now, to convict someone on this charge.


Tom Jackman:Bryan Sheppard had not been in jail that long when the prosecutors had to drop the charges.



Julia B. Chan:


Tom Jackman, covers crime and courts for the Washington Post. Back then, he was a young reporter with the Kansas City Times.


Tom Jackman:They dismissed six murder charges against the guy they had thought had killed the firefighters. This was a gigantic let down for the entire city. Suddenly they had nothing. They had nobody. They were back to square zero.


Julia B. Chan:Bryan Sheppard was a free man, but he was still in the media spotlight.


Speaker 3:The only suspect in the case publicly is this man, Bryan Sheppard, accused briefly by a jail cellmate, whose charges were quickly dropped. And Sheppard in an exclusive television interview, maintains he’s not capable of the crime. But he says since his name has been associated with the explosion, his life has been scarred.



Bryan Sheppard:


I had a friend of mine that looks kinda like me, he got jumped down by Westport by, I think it was a couple firefighters. Not for sure though. Jumped him, beat him up because they thought he was me.


Julia B. Chan:Even though the charges against him were dropped, Bryan was still a suspect. Investigators were canvassing his neighborhood, looking for evidence linking him and his family to the explosion.



Joe Galetti:


All the time we knew what family a person’s did the crime. All we needed was a little evidence.


Julia B. Chan:Fire Captain Joe Galetti, shared the city’s arson task force. It included local police, the FBI, and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. They setup a hotline for tips. They plastered reward posters everywhere.


Joe Galetti:And we made signs, 30 foot long and 12 foot high and we put them on all the bridges. And I made it big enough that if you could drive by at 55 miles an hour, you could read it.



Julia B. Chan:


Joe Galetti and an ATF agent named, David True, brought the case to the attention of the TV show Unsolved Mysteries. This was six years after Bryan Sheppard’s first case was dismissed.


Speaker 4:Today the case remains Kansas City’s most notorious unsolved crime.



Julia B. Chan:


The show aired in February of 1995.


Speaker 4:There is currently a $50,000 reward being offered in this case. If you have any information, please contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. The Kansas City Police Department, or call our toll free number. Remember, you need not give your name.


Julia B. Chan:Joe Galetti says, as soon as the program ended …


Joe Galetti:The telephone started ringing. We had over 300 leads that night and things started happening.


Al Letson:Leads were coming in from ordinary citizens. They were also coming in from jails and prisons.



Joe Galetti:


I don’t think you could get on the phone for three days, there was so many people calling. Criminals calling, talking about well I know this, I was in jail when you said this that and the other.


Tom Jackman:When you look at the number of witnesses who were either in trouble or already in jail and the power that the federal government had to make all that go away, it’s just stunning.



Al Letson:


That’s next on Reveal, from the Center of Investigative Reporting in PRX.


[00:20:00]Hey listeners, Julia B. Chan here, Reveal’s digital editor. If you don’t already follow us on Twitter, you should consider it. It’s the best place to get our latest stories, like our coverage on the effects of Trump’s immigration order. And it’s an easy way to share feedback about the show, like the one you’re listening to right now. We’ve got an extra incentive to sweeten the deal. We’re gonna offer up a first listen of our latest episode to one new Twitter follower each week. Here’s how it works. Every Friday we’ll randomly select one new follower from the previous seven days, and send them a password protected link to the next episode of Reveal. This is before anyone else gets to hear it. To enter open up the Twitter app in your phone right now, and give us a follow, were @reveal.


Al Letson:From the Center of Investigative Reporting in PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson.


The explosions that killed six Kansas City firefighters in 1988 happened at the site of a major road expansion project. One theory was that it was sabotage, that the fires that triggered the explosions, were set by operatives of a local union, whose workers were shut out of the project. But years went by and no one was behind bars. So federal investigators shifted gears and focused on a working class neighborhood a few miles from the construction site, Marlboro.


They developed a new theory, that five people from Marlboro went to the site to steal tools, and started the fires to divert security guards. To build their case, agents setup a tip hotline. But they also solicited help from jailhouse informants. They offered them reward money and sentence reductions. Reveal’s Jenna Welch picks up our story.


Jenna Welch:The Western Missouri Correctional Center sits in the middle of farm country, half way between Kansas City and the Nebraska state line. The prison is a circle of concrete buildings, surrounded by layers of razor wire. I’m with Mike Mcgraw. Mike is a veteran reporter with Kansas City Public television. He’s been investigating the firefighter’s case for the past decade.


We came to the prison to meet an inmate named, Alan Bethard.


Mike :Alan Bethard has been around town for years. He’s spent probably most of his recent years in prison. Usually for drug offenses. He’s been a vital source for me and for others.


Jenna Welch:Alan grew up in Marlboro and was close friends with Bryan Sheppard, one of the suspects in the case. We go into a small meeting room. A guard brings Alan in and leaves us alone.


Mike :I’ve never tried to see you, where you weren’t willing to talk.


Alan Bethard:[inaudible 00:17:08]


Mike :And well you can’t either.


Alan Bethard:Actually not.


Speaker 4:Alan says he was in the same prison back in 1995. That’s when investigators came looking for witnesses to testify against Bryan Sheppard and four other suspects. They put up reward posters in jails and prisons all over Kansas and Missouri.


Joe Galetti:When they said that you can get time off your sentence or get a reward for … You know I don’t think you could get on the phone for three days, there were so many criminals calling, talking about well I know this. I was in jail with him and he said this, that, and the other. Never once have I seen any kind of help being requested from inside the department of corrections. They’d never done anything like that.


Speaker 4:Alan says he didn’t call the hotline, but got a visit anyway. Many visits, from the local police and from the ATF. Alan says they came to him with an offer.


Alan Bethard:Testify at the grand jury hearing we’ll let you out of prison. Testify at the trial and help get a conviction, and we’ll assure you the $50,000 reward. We’ll put you in witness protection program, we’ll send you anywhere in the United States you wanna go.


Speaker 4:Alan says investigators wanted him to confirm his story. One of Alan’s friends had told the police that he and Alan together had seen Bryan Sheppard and some other people speeding away from the construction site, just after the explosion. But Alan says he was at home that night and told the investigators the story wasn’t true. He says, that’s when they came after him.


Alan Bethard:They personally came at me, threatened to put me in jail for withholding evidence. Threatened to take my girlfriend’s daughter for being an unfit mother and set my bond at a million dollars, set my trial date back for three years even though they know they didn’t have anything on me. These guys are threatening to take your life away from you and a lot of people knows it’s possible.


Speaker 4:Alan still wouldn’t testify against Bryan Sheppard, but prosecutors found some leverage. Alan was facing charges for stealing a car, a car that he had driven across the state line. The federal prosecutor in the firefighter’s case, had the charges upgraded. Suddenly Alan was facing time in federal prison, unless he cooperated. At that point, Mike Mcgraw says the judge in the case scolded the government for pressuring Alan to testify.


Mike :During the hearing in which Alan Bethard’s stolen car case was taken from state court to federal court, the judge turned to Bethard and he said, “Look, I’m sure the federal sentencing commission would never, never in their wildest dreams anticipate that the government would pull something like this.”


Speaker 4:Then the judge turned to the federal prosecutor and said …


Mike :“You’re just prosecuting this guy, because he won’t tell you the story that you want him to tell.” He even called the prosecutor out again and said, “Do you think Maybe-“


 Section 2 of 5          [00:10:00 – 00:20:04]
 Section 3 of 5          [00:20:00 – 00:30:04]
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Speaker 1:Called the prosecutor out again and said, “Do you think maybe that Alan is telling the truth and your witness could be the one that’s lying?”


Speaker 2:Instead of prison time, the judge gave Alan probation. Investigators were having a hard time finding credible witnesses. All the suspects had criminal records. Several had drug and alcohol problems. So did a lot of their friends and acquaintances. And Mike says these were the people the government needed.


Mike:Remember, the federal investigators had no physical evidence in this case. They had no DNA, they had no eyewitnesses.



Speaker 2:


And three of the five suspects passed polygraph tests so the government ended up relying on statements from people who said they’d heard the suspects admitting their involvement in the crime.


Mike:These witnesses were often pretty sketchy. In fact, the prosecutor told me at one point, “Plots hatched in hell aren’t witnessed by angels,” kind of explaining why some of these witnesses were troublesome.



Speaker 2:


In the middle of all this intrigue was David True, an ATF special agent and one of the lead investigators in the case. True was approaching retirement after 26 years at the bureau and was highly decorated. Some witnesses interviewed by True described him as persistent, but polite. Others told me he was threatening and manipulative.


David True:Testing. Testing, one, two, three. Testing, one, two. For the record, it’s February the 19th, 1995.



Speaker 2:


Mike McGraw got a hold of this recording.


David True:It’s approximately 9:35 PM. This is Special Agent David R. True, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.


Speaker 2:This is one of the most important interviews of the entire investigation. True is in a small interview room at a local jail with several other people.


David True:If I were to conduct an interview with Darlene Edwards regarding her knowledge about the firefighters incident which occurred in November 1988 …



Speaker 2:


Darlene was living with Frank Sheppard, Brian Sheppard’s uncle. It’s Sunday evening, the end of an intense weekend for Darlene.


David True:For the record, once again, Darlene. Tell us what you know about what happened that night.


Darlene Edwards:After I come home, Frank and I come home. He was drunk as was usual. We went to bed. I pacified him, he passed out.


Speaker 2:Darlene has waived her right to an attorney. She tells the agents a story. Hours before the explosions, she was at home with Frank. She says Brian Sheppard and his friend, Richard Brown, walked to her house to ask for a ride to a convenience store. They told her they were 4 wheeling with their truck near the construction site and ran out of gas. Darlene says she drove Brian and Richard to the store and they filled their gas can.



Darlene Edwards:


I take them down to QuikTrip.


Speaker 2:Then she tells the agents, they went to the construction site, but when they got there, there was no truck.


Darlene Edwards:I said, “What do you need gas for then? I don’t see no cars around. What do you need gas for? What’s going on?” They said, “Well, we’re going to start a fire at this end over here. We’re going to start a fire over here so I’ll go over there and we can be over here.” I said, “Man, that’s not cool because you don’t know where these … explosives because they’re excavating so naturally there’s explosives and you don’t know where they’re at. And I’m not hanging around and getting my ass blown up.”



David True:


So, they were going to use the gasoline to set the fire for a, I guess, it’s like a diversion?


Darlene Edwards:A diversion.


Speaker 2:Darlene explains to the agents that Brian and Richard wanted to divert the attention of the security guards so they could steal some equipment. That was 22 years ago. I talked to Darlene recently and here’s what she has to say now.



Darlene Edwards:


They called it the stupidest story I could think of. I mean, come on.


Speaker 2:Darlene says the story she told investigators was made up and didn’t even make sense. The construction site was only two blocks from the store so why would Brian and Richard walk more than a mile to Darlene’s house only to have her take them back to the store to get gas?


Darlene Edwards:I’m not thinking anybody’s going to believe that stupid story. Who’s going to believe somebody’s going to do something that dumb? But they were like, “Okay, that’s good. You put them there, now what went on?” I’m like, “Okay, they said they wanted to start a fire,” blah, blah, blah. So I just lied to them. I lied to the ATF.



Speaker 2:


Darlene says to understand why she lied to the ATF, you need to go back a couple of days. ATF agents had asked her to come to their office to answer questions about the case.


Darlene Edwards:They were asking me questions about the firefighters. “Originally, do you know did it?” I said, “No.” “Well, we think you know. We’ve had word that you know.” I said, “But I don’t know. I can’t help you with something I don’t know.”



Speaker 2:


Darlene says the agents told her that Brian Sheppard and Richard Brown were responsible for the arson and that she knew about it. Darlene insisted that she was home in bed that night and didn’t know anything. So then investigators lowered the boom. They’d secretly recorded her selling 11 grams of crack cocaine. Darlene was arrested and put in jail.


Darlene Edwards:They kept telling me, “It’s your window of opportunity, you’re facing 40 years in prison. All you need to do is put them there at the site. That’s your window of opportunity. Take it. Go through there, walk through that door. Go home to your kids.”



Speaker 2:


After a weekend behind bars, Darlene said she sat down with ATF agents and told them the story about driving Brian and Richard to the construction site.


Darlene Edwards:I didn’t want to be in jail. I’d never been locked up like that before. That was scary. They kept me in solitary, in a cell by myself, and they wouldn’t even let me make a phone call until after I spoke to them. I lied. I wanted to go home.



Speaker 2:


Darlene eventually recanted her statement, but it was too late. Prosecutors used the recording to help indict Brian Sheppard, his friend, Richard Brown, his uncles, Skip and Frank Sheppard, and Darlene herself.


Speaker 6:Five people have been indicted in the 1988 firefighters explosion. Their names-



Speaker 7:


If convicted of this felony, each defendant could be subject to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment without parole and a $250 thousand fine.


Speaker 2:The trial began in January 1997. The prosecution’s most important witness was Darlene Edwards own daughter. Becky Edwards had been 11 years old at the time of the explosions. She told the court that a week before the blast, all the defendants were together in the kitchen getting high and making plans to steal equipment from the construction site. Reporter Tom Jackson was in the courtroom covering the trial for the Kansas City Times.



Tom Jackson:


Becky Edwards was very tense because she was obviously terrified. She’s now a teenager, 19 years old, and this is eight years later. She was just terrified that she was incriminating her mother, her mother’s boyfriend, her mother’s boyfriend’s brother, and these other two fellows that she knew well. She was on the stand in federal court testifying against her family. That was definitely a lynch pin moment in the trial in which here is a witness that puts all five people in one room.



Speaker 2:


Darlene Edwards remembers sitting in the courtroom in shock as she listened to her daughter.


Darlene Edwards:She was balling her eyes out. I was crying. She was scared, she was hurt while she was up there saying what she was saying. I’m like, “What is going on?” And I’m worried about my children. The whole thing was crazy.



Speaker 2:


After two days, the jurors handed down a unanimous verdict, guilty. Later the judge sentenced each of the defendants to life in prison with no possibility of parole, including Darlene. She’s an inmate at a federal prison in Texas where she’ll likely be for the rest of her life.


[00:28:00]Debby McKarnin was married to Robert McKarnin, one of the firefighters who died in the blast. She says the verdict came as a relief.


Debby McKarnin:I thought it was a long time coming. I really never thought it was going to happen.


Speaker 2:Debby spoke at the sentencing hearing.


Debby McKarnin:I looked at each one of the perpetrators in the eyes as I was on the stand and spoke of all six men and of their families. They didn’t lead good lives to begin with, like all of these men that were in their communities and did good things and helped people all the time. These people were not that type of people.



Speaker 2:


Twenty years later, there are conflicting emotions for the relatives and friends of the convicted. Becky Edwards whose testimony helped convict her mother wouldn’t talk to us. In fact, she hasn’t talked about the case with anyone in years, not reporters, not even her mother’s lawyer. So we went to see Doris Clark. She’s Becky’s grandmother, Darlene’s mother.


[00:29:00]Doris lives in Osceola, about two hours south of Kansas City. We meet outside a thrift store where she volunteers.


Doris Clark:That was my granddaughter who called me and I was on the phone with her.


Speaker 2:With Becky?


Doris Clark:Uh-huh. (affirmative).


Speaker 2:How’s she doing?



Doris Clark:


She’s doing pretty good.


Speaker 2:Doris takes us inside to a back room.


Doris Clark:Should never have been on the witness stand. I mean, she should never have been called, as far as I’m concerned. Yeah, she had it rough.


Speaker 2:Doris says federal agents including David True of the ATF, manipulated her family and then betrayed them.


Doris Clark:We felt that we had support from ATF. They kept telling us that Darlene was innocent.


Speaker 2:She says the agents treated her like a queen during the trial, even paying for rooms at a local hotel.


 Section 3 of 5          [00:20:00 – 00:30:04]
 Section 4 of 5          [00:30:00 – 00:40:04]
(NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)


Interviewer:Treated her like a queen during the trial. Even paying for rooms at a local hotel. She and her husband were also invited to the ATF office during breaks for donuts and coffee.


Doris:It was just like he was going to a friend’s house and entertain, and then we’d all go to court.


Interviewer:According to Doris, federal agents were also paying for her phone calls to Darlene in jail. And they’d give her questions to ask her daughter.


Doris:This was a set-up from the get-go. It was somebody wanting to get a feather in their cap, and they should’ve had it in their butt.


Interviewer:So, if you had a chance to sit across the table from Dave [Drew 00:30:33], and let him know what you were thinking and feeling about all of this, what would you say?





I’d tell him to kiss my ass. He had used us. That’s the way I feel.


Interviewer:In 2005, Becky Edwards recanted. She signed an affidavit saying the ATF pressured her to give false testimony.


The ATF wouldn’t talk to me about the case. But I was able to talk to retired agent, David [Drew 00:31:09]. I met him at the Firefighter’s Union Hall in Kansas City, but he wouldn’t let me record him. He said he never told Doris Clark that her daughter, Darlene, was innocent. He said it was just the opposite. Doris was cooperating in the investigation, because she believed Darlene was involved. [Drew 00:31:24] told me Doris encouraged her own family members to provide evidence supporting Darlene’s guilt.


As for Darlene’s daughter, Becky, [Drew 00:31:33] said she gave multiple statements implicating her mother and the other defendants. He also said he never pressured anyone to lie.


[00:31:30]In addition to Becky Edwards, seven other witnesses, who testified to the grand jury or at trial, recanted. Of course, that leaves many other witnesses who haven’t recanted. But when you go through their testimony, it’s full of contradictions.


[00:32:00]I went with Mike McGraw to his newsroom at Kansas City Public Television. Mike has a spreadsheet 10 feet long, double-sided. It lists 58 witnesses who testified for the prosecution.


Mike McGraw:My spreadsheet shows that 47 witnesses changed their stories in the nine years between the crime and the trial. In other words, in many cases, they might have [inaudible 00:32:23] the local police right after the explosion. I know nothing about this case. And when the feds take the case over, eight or nine years later, they all of a sudden have these epiphanies about what they do remember. And of course, when the feds took the case over from the local authorities, there was another incentive, and that was more than fifty thousand dollars in reward money advertised in most of the jails and prisons in both Kansas and Missouri.





On a whiteboard, we list the names of the defendants in one column. Alongside, we write the locations where witnesses reported seeing them.


So, the information that we just pulled and put up here puts [Brian 00:33:04] at four different places. Clearly at four different places at the time.



Mike McGraw:


At approximately the same time.


Speaker 4:It’s almost as though no two witnesses told the same story.


Interviewer:Okay. Let’s look at Darlene.


Mike McGraw:We’ve got her at home after the first explosion. We’ve got her at the site. We’ve got her buying gas. We’ve got her at the QuikTrip 00:03:29.





And the QuikTrip is not the 7-11. Those are different places.


Speaker 4:No.


Mike McGraw:The QuikTrip was near the site. That’s another convenience store. And back at home.


Interviewer:Great. That’s starting to be even more confusing.


Mike McGraw:Right. The trial transcript, itself, is over four thousand pages long. The trial lasted for weeks.


Speaker 4:And when you put it all together, it doesn’t make any sense. And even the prosecutor, and the US attorney at the time, have acknowledged that, even after this lengthy trial, we still don’t know what happened up there that night.





I wanted to talk to the prosecutors, but they declined, citing a pending hearing the case. But back in 2006, when Mike was working for the Kansas City Star, he recorded this interview with Assistant US Attorney, Paul Becker.


Mike McGraw:[inaudible 00:34:27]


Paul Becker:And they were on the witness stand for-





In 1996, Becker was the Government’s lead trial attorney on the firefighter’s case. Mike pointed out all the contradictions.


Mike McGraw:When you study the testimony, Frank was eight different places at once. Skip was four. Darlene was four. [Brian 00:34:43] was four, and Richard was seven. Now, I know the jury heard all that, and it came back guilty anyway.


Paul Becker:Yes. You’re the first one to discover that? Is that-


Mike McGraw:No. No. By no means, am I the first one to discover … You probably knew that at the time.


Paul Becker:I knew that all these witness statements didn’t match up. I mean, absolutely.



Mike McGraw:


The defendants would have me ask you, “How could I be in two places at once? How could your witnesses be right?”


Paul Becker:We’re just relying upon their statements. Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to, is the defendants admitted the crime.


Mike McGraw:Right.


Paul Becker:Because we didn’t have any eyewitnesses, so what else do you have?


Interviewer:Becker said it didn’t matter that some of the details from the witnesses didn’t match up. What mattered, he said, was that the defendants had admitted to witnesses that they had taken part in the crime. Becker also defended the tactics the Government used to get the testimony, including offering to reduce a prisoner’s sentence.



Paul Becker:


We make deals with people to let them out of jail. Right? The inducement is your freedom. And that’s the norm in federal criminal cases. And in state cases, too, I guess. I mean, you cooperate, and you’re going to get less time. What could be more of an inducement than that? But the rule is, and it’s hard and fast, is you disclose it. And so that the trier of fact, the jury, can weigh that.



Mike McGraw:


When you look at the number of witnesses who were either in trouble, or already in jail, or facing charges, state or federal, and the power that the federal government had to make all that go away, it’s just stunning. But then I wondered, you know, what’s the duty of a prosecutor with that much power to make sure that the induced testimony is, in fact, the truth?


Interviewer:The Justice Department reviewed the Government’s handling of the case, in response to Mike [McGraw’s 00:36:57] reporting. It concluded that there was no credible evidence that federal agents improperly coerced witnesses.



Mike McGraw:


So actually, where we’re standing now is some feet below where the construction site was going on at the time.


Interviewer:Mike wanted to show me a marker on the side of the highway at the site of the explosions.


Mike McGraw:As you can see, there’s lines in the limestone, here. And that’s where they drill through to place the explosives to blow the rock away.


Interviewer:There’s an American flag flapping in the wind and six limestone crosses covered with pennies. Gifts to fallen heroes. And a plaque. “In memory of our firefighters who gave their lives in the line of duty at this site. November 29, 1988.”



Mike McGraw:


Remember, this occurred in ’88. The families of the firefighters, the whole city, was mourning for eight years. There had been no explanation for this. No one had been held accountable for eight years. So when they gathered up these kids from Marlborough, some of them were kids, there was a march for retribution. There was a lot of pressure to give the families closure, and they deserve to have it.


[00:38:00]Truth be told, I’ve been here by myself more than once, kind of communing with these fellows, wondering if there’s any way they could somehow give me a sign as to what they think really happened that night. I’m not sure they really do. But I’m pretty sure the Government doesn’t know.





After two decades behind bars, there’s new hope for one of the defendants. But there’s a catch.


Defendant:I’m not going to confess to a crime that I did not commit. I’ll tell everybody all the things that I’ve done wrong in my entire life, but I did not commit this crime.


Announcer:That’s next on Reveal, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and PRX.



Byard Duncan:


Hey, Listeners, Byard Duncan, here, Reveal’s Community Manager. You’re already listening to our show, so you don’t need me to tell you about the importance of great investigative journalism. But maybe, you’ve recently asked yourself, “How can I make a difference? Aside from just tuning in?” Well, here’s how. If you listen on iTunes, give us a rating and a review. It’s easy to do, and it helps others find Reveal more easily.


[00:39:30]We’ve got a bonus this month, too. Reveal totebags, with an illustration of Al’s 00:09:42 tagline, “There’s more to the story.” Each time we print these totes, we get a different artist to interpret the phrase. Getting one of these totes is easy and free. Just rate and review us on iTunes. Screengrab your review before submitting it, that part’s important, and email it to us at We’ll be in touch.


 Section 4 of 5          [00:30:00 – 00:40:04]
 Section 5 of 5          [00:40:00 – 00:54:44]
(NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)


Speaker 1:We’ll be in touch.


Al Letson:From The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. We’ve been talking this hour, about a tragedy that happened almost 30 years ago in Kansas city.


Speaker 3:Yes, I want to report a fire. [inaudible 00:40:21]


Speaker 5:[inaudible 00:40:24] It’s a major explosion. We heard it here. Firefighters are involved out of that 71 highway and 87. Apparently a large explosion.



Al Letson:


Today, four people are serving life sentences, without the possibility of parole, for their involvement in the crime. A fifth defendant died of cancer. They’ve exhausted all appeals and had little chance of freedom, until recently. One of the defendants is Bryan Sheppard. He was 17 at the time of the explosions. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that a mandatory life sentence, without the possibility of parole, was unconstitutional for a juvenile. So, because of his age at the time of the blast, Bryan Sheppard is now eligible to be re-sentenced. Reveal’s Jenna Welch picks up the story, with a phone call from prison.



Speaker 4:


Receiving a call from-


Bryan Sheppard:Bryan Sheppard.


Speaker 4:An inmate at CCA Leavenworth Detention Center. Press one to consent to the delivery of … If you would like to [crosstalk 00:41:19]


Jenna Welch:Bryan Sheppard is locked in a maximum security holding facility, in Leavenworth, KS. He’s only able to call me for 15 minutes at a time and the calls are monitored.


Hi Bryan.


Bryan Sheppard:Hello, how you doing? Good morning.



Jenna Welch:


Bryan told me that for years, he’d stopped thinking about getting out of prison, because his chances seemed so remote. He was focusing on making the best life he could on the inside. But, after the Supreme Court decision, a federal judge granted his motion for a re-sentencing hearing. So, Bryan could have his time in prison reduced, or he might even be released.


Bryan Sheppard:It’s overwhelming for something like that to happen, after all of these years. It was a dream, I’m like, “This is not really happening.”



Jenna Welch:


But, there is a twist. A re-sentencing hearing isn’t about guilt or innocence. It looks at whether the original sentence was too harsh given the defendants role in the crime, and other factors. This is tricky for Bryan, because he insists, he had no role in the explosions.


Bryan Sheppard:I’m not going to confess to a crime that I did not commit. I’ll tell everybody all the things that I’ve done wrong in my entire life, but I don’t not commit this crime. If that makes the judge decide to send me back to prison for 40 more years, then, that’s what’s going to happen.



Jenna Welch:


He told me that when he goes to the hearing, he plans to read the judge a letter. He read part of it to me. About a plea deal he was offered in 1995.


Bryan Sheppard:Many years ago, I was given a chance at freedom, if I would’ve … get on the witness stand and point to my uncles and my best friend and tell the jury what they … that they were guilty. If I had lied to myself, I would have instead corrupted my soul.



Jenna Welch:


Bryan feels that he’s in the same predicament now, tell a lie and go free or tell the truth and stay in jail.


Bryan Sheppard:I could’ve bene freed many, many years ago if I had taken the deal. I hope the families of the honorable men that died that terrible night can understand why I must again, assert my innocence.


Jenna Welch:The Supreme Court ruled that juveniles can’t be punished by the same standards as adults for crimes carrying life sentences. Certain factors must be considered, like age, home environment, and the level of participation in the crime. Juveniles can be sentenced to life without parole, but only in rare cases, where the crime reflects irreparable corruption.


[00:43:30]Cindy Short is Bryan Sheppard’s attorney. She says that at his re-sentencing hearing, she’ll focus on his traumatic childhood. How he was raised by alcoholics and physically abused. And, she’ll tell the judge how he’s turned his life around, in prison.


Cindy Short:The man that sits before me every day, when I go to see him, is a redeemed individual. He is a person who is rehabilitated.



Jenna Welch:


Cindy says that while in prison, Bryan Sheppard kicked his drug and alcohol addictions, got his high school diploma, and has worked hard to stay close to his daughter and grandchildren.


Cindy Short:There is no evidence that this was someone that you would throw away, that you would be afraid of, that could never live in society. That has no relationship to who Bryan Sheppard was at 17. If we’re able to prove that, then a mandatory sentence of life in prison is unconstitutional, it cannot apply to him.



Jenna Welch:


On the other hand, prosecutors will be at the hearing. They wouldn’t talk to us, but in court filings, they’ve indicated that Bryan must accept some responsibility for the crime. In other words, do the one thing he’s refused to do, for the past three decades.


Debbie McKarnin was the wife of Robert McKarnin, one of the firefighters who died in the explosion. She plans to speak at the hearing. She told me what she’s going to tell the judge about Bryan Sheppard.



Debbie McKarnin:


This man has had 28 years to say something to reach out to the family of the firefighters, and yet has made no effort to say he was sorry. So, to now, at the re-sentencing say, “Hey, you know, let me out. I was too young to make a good decision.” I say, no you weren’t my children were that age and they made good decisions.



Jenna Welch:


I asked her about Bryan’s claim, that he’s innocent.


Debbie McKarnin:He was found guilty, there is no validity to that claim, that’s what I would say. Or, the judicial system would’ve re-heard it and they didn’t. This gentlemen needs to spend the rest of his life in jail, he took six lives.


Mike McGraw:Take a right here. Here’s the Marlborough Community Center.



Jenna Welch:


I’m driving with reporter Mike McGraw to meet Bryan Sheppard’s mother. Her name’s Vergie Sheppard and she lives in the working class neighborhood in South Kansas City, called Marlborough. It’s where all the people convicted in 1997 were from.


Mike McGraw:As you can see by looking around, there isn’t any a sidewalk anywhere. The homes, a lot of them, need painting. Many of them have wrought iron grating on their outside. [inaudible 00:46:34]



Vergie Shepard:


Hi there, come on in Mike.


Mike McGraw:Hi Verg.


Vergie Shepard:Hi.


Mike McGraw:You taking care of yourself?


Vergie Shepard:Yes sir.


Mike McGraw:You are?


Vergie Shepard:The best I can.


Jenna Welch:We go inside Vergie’s house. She’s sitting in a big arm chair, chain-smoking, with an oxygen tank next to her. There are pictures of Bryan all over the walls.


Vergie Shepard:I think it would had money, he would’ve walked. If we’d come from high society instead of just being dirt poor, that he would’ve walked on the whole situation. I can’t say that, that’s a fact. But in the world that I grew up in and what I’ve seen so far, I believe it’s true.



Jenna Welch:


Vergie’s always insisted that she was home with her son on the night of the explosions. Bryan is now 45. He’s spent almost half his life behind bars.


Vergie Shepard:It’s been 21 years. His daughter grew up without him. It’s just a shame.



Jenna Welch:


Vergie’s house is only a mile from where the explosions happened in 1988.


Vergie Shepard:I used to drive by there and cry. So many families have been destroyed, trying to hold themselves together. I drive by and cry.


Jenna Welch:Three retired federal agents who worked on the case, told me they’re convinced that all the people convicted in the firefighter’s case were guilty. But there are some cops who question the trial’s outcome. Like Victor Zinn, he’s a retired Kansas City homicide detective.



Victor Zinn:


In my opinion, the wrong people are in jail for this particular crime.


Jenna Welch:Zinn was the first detective assigned to case, and spent months interviewing suspects. He sympathizes with the firefighter’s family’s, and says they deserve justice. But, he says in this case, justice wasn’t served.



Victor Zinn:


From the knowledge that I have about the Sheppard’s, they’re the penny-ante thieves. They would go into garages and they would steal lawn mowers and weed eaters. Or, they would sell little, tiny bits of drugs, they weren’t major drug dealers, that type of crime.


Jenna Welch:Zinn says the prosecution’s theory, about what happened the night of the explosions, doesn’t add up.


Victor Zinn:I find it hard to believe that, Darlene, Frank, Skip, Brown and Bryan, would all go up there on top of this hill, where the guards are at one of the main access points and they would look for stuff to steal. And then, not finding anything, that they would want to draw attention to themselves by setting straw bells in fire that would draw the guard’s attention’s, to come looking for them.



Jenna Welch:


If the wrong people were sent to prison, who did set the fires? Zinn thinks investigators overlooked evidence implicating the two security guards on duty that night. When the justice department reviewed the case, they found new evidence that other people my have been involved in the arson, in addition to the defendants. But, when the report was made public, the names were blacked out.


[00:49:30]If Bryan Sheppard is re-sentenced, or even released, it won’t help the other defendants in the case. Darlene Edwards is in a federal medical facility in Texas. Her health is declining and she’s petitioned for clemency with no result. The story Darlene told the ATF in 1995 helped convict all the defendants, including herself. The last time I spoke to her, we talked about Bryan, and about what she’d say to him now, if she could.





Bryan, I love you. I am so, so sorry I did this. I know you didn’t do it and I pray that you get to go home with your Momma. Granted, I want to go home too, but I’m the one that told the lie and now we’re all sitting here.



Jenna Welch:


I played the tape of Darlene for Bryan.


Bryan Sheppard:I’m grateful that she actually said those words. But, to hear her now, after all these years, it does mean something to me. I believe that even though she did what she did, and said what she said, she still deserves to be sitting right here with me and going back for a re-sentencing hearing. Same with Richard and Frank.



Jenna Welch:


I told Bryan that even if he gets released, a lot of people in Kansas City will still see him as responsible for the firefighter’s deaths.


Bryan Sheppard:I walk out of here after I get re-sentenced and go on with my life, I’m going to just disappear. I’m not going to live in Kansas City. I don’t want to be around anybody that’s involved in this thing.


Jenna Welch:We don’t know if Bryan Sheppard, Darlene Edwards, or the others are guilty, or innocent. It’s been almost 30 years since the firefighters died and it’s still an emotional topic in Kansas City. Bryan’s re-sentencing hearing has been all over the news. It came up toward the end of my interview with Joe Galetti. He’s the retired fire captain, who raised the reward money that helped build a case against Bryan and the others. He still thinks Bryan was involved in the explosions. But, he accepts the fact that Bryan might get a break.



Joe Galetti:


The law of the land has changed and we’re … I’m prepared, personally, to see whatever happens, happens. If he can get out, I don’t know he ever had a job, but he needs to go to school, he needs to be a citizen once again and that might be hard. He’s done a lot of time in jail. He’s probably hardened. But, whatever he does, good luck to him if it happens.



Al Letson:


Bryan Sheppard will appear before a federal judge in Kansas City later this month. We’ll keep following his case.


[00:52:30]Our show was produced in collaboration with reporter Mike McGraw at KCPT, Kansas City Public Television. We also had help from The Kansas City Star. See more of their reporting and videos at


Deb George was the editor, Michael Montgomery and Jenna Welch produced the show.


[00:54:30]And we’re pleased to be telling you about our friends over at “How to Be Amazing” with Michael Ian Black. No my friends, unfortunately it is not a podcast all about my life, I mean, it could be, but, it’s not. It’s a podcast where Michael sits down with some of today’s most provocative writers, entertainers, artists, innovative thinkers and politicians and they have these crazy, thought-provoking conversations that, make you laugh, as well as think. He dives into the creative process with, some of the most influential voices in our time. Who are giving out advice, sharing stories of success and failure and just having a laugh. Past guests include Amy Schumer, David Sedaris and Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is my personal favorite. Check out the show every week on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher and wherever you get your podcasts from.


Our staff includes Stan Alcorn, Fernanda Camarena, Julia B. Chan, Cheryl Devall, Mwende Hahesy, Katharine Mieszkowski, David Ritsher, Neena Satija, Michael Schiller, Ike Sriskandarajah, Laura Starecheski, Taki Telonidis and Amy Walters.


Our sound design team is the wonder twins, my man J. Breezy, Mr. Jim Briggs and Claire [inaudible 00:54:04] Mullen. They had production help this week from Katherine Raymundo.


Our head of studio, Christa Scharfenberg. Amy Pyle is our editor in chief. Susanne Reber is our executive editor and our executive producer is Kevin Sullivan. Our theme music is by Camerado, “Lightning.” Support for Reveal is provided by The Reva and David Logan Foundation, The Ford Foundation, the John D. & Catherine T. Macarthur Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.


Reveal is a co-production of The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. I’m Al Letson and remember, there is always more to the story.


 Section 5 of 5          [00:40:00 – 00:54:44]

Julia B. Chan worked at The Center for Investigative Reporting until June, 2017. Julia B. Chan is a producer and the digital editor for Reveal's national public radio program. She’s the voice of Reveal online and manages the production and curation of digital story assets that are sent to more than 200 stations across the country. Previously, Chan helped The Center for Investigative Reporting launch YouTube’s first investigative news channel, The I Files, and led engagement strategies – online and off – for multimedia projects. She oversaw communications, worked to better connect CIR’s work with a bigger audience and developed creative content and collaborations to garner conversation and impact.

Before joining CIR, Chan worked as a Web editor and reporter at the San Francisco Examiner. She managed the newspaper’s digital strategy and orchestrated its first foray into social media and online engagement. A rare San Francisco native, she studied broadcasting at San Francisco State University, focusing on audio production and recording. Chan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Jennifer Welch is the artistic director and co-creator of StoryWorks, a groundbreaking documentary theater project launched by The Center for Investigative Reporting in 2013 that transforms investigative journalism into theater. She has developed 10 new plays across the country – in North Dakota, New Jersey, Mississippi, Missouri and California. Each play exposes the human cost of injustice and structural inequality to help drive social change. Her work reveals the emotional truth of investigative reporting as well as the factual. Dedicated to the development of new plays as a director, dramaturge and producer, Welch has directed over 20 new plays and collaborated with visionary playwrights such as Eugenie Chan, Octavio Solis, Jon Bernson, Donte Clark and Al Letson. She is also a contributing producer for "Reveal," the Peabody Award-winning public radio show and podcast from CIR and PRX, and the director of Reveal Live. Welch is a 2017 recipient of the Midwest Innocence Project's Sean O'Brien Freedom Award for her work bringing the story of Bryan Sheppard, who spent 22 years in prison, to a national audience through StoryWorks and "Reveal." She is based in CIR's Emeryville, California, office.

Michael Montgomery is a senior reporter and producer for Reveal. He has led collaborations with the Associated Press, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Frontline, KQED and others.

Previously, Montgomery was a senior reporter at American Public Media, a special correspondent for the BBC and an associate producer with CBS News. He began his career in eastern Europe, covering the fall of communism and wars in former Yugoslavia for the Daily Telegraph and Los Angeles Times. His investigations into human rights abuses in the Balkans led to the arrest and conviction of Serbian and Albanian paramilitaries and creation of a new war crimes court based in The Hague. Montgomery’s honors include Murrow, Peabody, IRE, duPont, Third Coast and Overseas Press Club awards. He is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.