A southwest Missouri man spent his first weekend of freedom after eight years in prison visiting with family and friends and doing simple things like buying a toothbrush and finding new clothes to wear.
Brad Jennings, 61, was released from prison on $250,000 bond Friday, a day after a judge overturned Jennings’ 2009 conviction for killing his wife, Lisa, at the couple’s home in Buffalo on Christmas Day 2006.
Ice that coated the Buffalo area during the weekend didn’t stop a parade of supporters from stopping by, said Jennings, who is still trying to comprehend that he is out of prison.
“Everything seemed kind of normal,” he said in a telephone interview Monday. “The thing that surprised me more than anything was the trees I planted around the house, how big they are. I’m getting along just fine … I’m trying to figure out what I don’t have that I’ve got to come up with. Eight years is a long time to be gone.”
Jennings was convicted of murder in 2009 and sentenced to 25 years in prison. His wife’s death was initially ruled a suicide but was re-opened after her sister insisted that Lisa would not have killed herself.
Missouri State Highway Patrol detectives concluded that Jennings killed his wife based on an interpretation of blood spatter at the scene. A judge overturned the conviction last week, citing several problems with the investigation, including the detectives’ failure to disclose that the gunshot residue test from Jennings’ robe indicated it was unlikely he fired a gun before his wife’s death. The evidence wasn’t presented at trial and wasn’t uncovered until 2015 by an attorney working for Marsha Iler, Brad Jennings’ sister.
Circuit Judge Robert Beger on Friday gave state prosecutors 120 days to decide whether to try Jennings again. A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office said in a statement that the office was reviewing the ruling and would “determine the next steps.”
Jennings said he tried to stay optimistic while in prison but he admitted he sometimes got discouraged. He said he especially appreciated the people who continued to support him, including two children he had with Lisa.
“I always knew I was innocent,” he said. “Sure there were times when I got down but it finally happened.”
And his 84-year-old mother, Freda Jennings, said Friday she was “as excited as I can be at my age. We have waited a long time.”
Jennings was represented by Robert and Elizabeth Ramsey, a father-daughter legal team from St. Louis.
Robert Ramsey said Monday that Jennings was a victim of “one of the worst performances by a defense attorney I’ve ever seen,” noting the attorney took no depositions, called only one defense witness and allowed what Ramsey considered inadmissible evidence to be entered in the trial without objecting. He also strongly criticized the work of the highway patrol and other investigators in the case.
Ramsey advised Jennings not to talk about the specifics of the case as he awaits word on whether he will be retried.
“I’m ready for another trial,” Jennings said Monday. “I think Bob and Elizabeth can prove I’m innocent. I’ve got confidence we could win it.”
Beger ordered that Jennings check in regularly with Dallas County Sheriff Scott Rice and not contact some friends and relatives of Lisa Jennings including Laci Deckard, 31, Lisa Jennings’ daughter from a prior marriage who believes Jennings killed her mother.
“I do not believe he is a good person, and I do not believe (releasing him) is the right thing,” Deckard said.