BUFFALO, Mo.– A man from southwest Missouri’s Buffalo spoke with Missourinet media partner KOLR-TV about his murder conviction in the shooting death of his wife that was recently thrown out.
The case involves evidence that a judge now says the state didn’t turn over to defense lawyers in a murder trial. There are still unanswered questions about that evidence that ended up setting an inmate free.
But Jennings says he never imagined a week ago that he’d be driving an ATV or feeding cattle, two activities he’s been doing recently.
“No. Never ever. No”, said Jennings. “I’ve been busy ever since I got home.”
Missouri’s South Central Correctional Center in Licking is where Jennings lived for nearly 10 years. He was convicted of second-degree murder in the 2006 Christmas morning death of his wife Lisa, even though three different agencies initially determined the incident was a suicide.
“That night there was three deputies here, the coroner, the prosecutor, the sheriff. And finally, when they left at 4 or 5 in the morning, every one of them told me they were sure it was suicide,” said Jennings. “Then as soon as all the gun residue come back they ruled it suicide.”
But the Missouri Highway Patrol at the request of one of Lisa Jenning’s sisters looked at the same case and called it murder. Sgt. Dan Nash was the lead investigator and relied heavily on blood spatter evidence to make his case that led to a conviction.
Years later, one of Brad Jenning’s attorneys discovered a piece of evidence at Highway Patrol Troop D headquarters that raised new questions about the conviction.
A forensic test, ordered by the Missouri State Highway Patrol of a robe worn by Brad Jennings the night of his wife’s death showed no trace of gunshot residue, suggesting Jennings didn’t fire a gun that night.
Jennings told KOLR he believes the evidence involving his robe was purposely withheld from his original defense team.
Phelps County Circuit Court Judge John Berger agreed, ruling last week that the patrol and prosecutors had an obligation to disclose the robe test evidence. Beger threw out the conviction and set him free on bond.
Jennings insists he was not involved in his wife’s death. “I’m innocent. There’s no evidence that I done anything.” He also says he’s lost faith in the justice system. “Yes,” said Jennings. “The part that got me out is fine. But there are some cops that are not fair.”
Madi Jennings, Brad’s daughter, was stunned by the whole course of events.
“That’s just crazy that this sort of stuff happens,” said Jennings. “It’s just stuff you see or hear about on the news or in movies. You don’t think it’s something real. And it’s just crazy that people play with peoples lives like that.”
The Attorney General’s office now has four months to re-try Jennings if it so chooses. A spokesperson says they are looking at how to proceed.
In the meantime, Brad Jennings is putting his life back together and trying to adjust to freedom outside prison walls. “I still wake up at six every morning for count and at ten at night. I expect to have to do that,” said Jennings.
He lived in a section of the prison designed for inmates with good behavior, although he did get in trouble once for taking two scoops of ice instead of one.
Jennings said the experience made him wish for his freedom. “It wasn’t rough on ya but you miss your family and being able to walk outside or do whatever you want to do you know,” he said.
Now Jennings waits to see if the case will go back to trial, and wonder why evidence wasn’t originally shared that could’ve possibly cleared his name.
“Well, I’m not happy about it but I can’t change it,” said Jennings. “It’s over. That’s just the way I want to look at it. It’s over I want to forget it and go on.”
Jennings wouldn’t comment on the performance of the state Highway Patrol in the case but thinks someone should be held accountable for his imprisonment.
There are members of Lisa Jennings family who believe Brad Jennings is guilty while others from her family maintain his innocence.
The Attorney General’s Office has a right to file an appeal that would challenge the judge’s ruling based on findings of law, not on finding of fact.
The Highway Patrol has also said it would not comment on the ruling or the case.
Missourinet media partner KOLR-TV provided the content of this story