Crime

Judge denies prison release for man convicted in deaths of six KC firefighters

Bryan Sheppard was denied immediate release from prison, where he is serving a life sentence for the 1988 deaths of six Kansas City firefighters.
Bryan Sheppard was denied immediate release from prison, where he is serving a life sentence for the 1988 deaths of six Kansas City firefighters. File photo

A man serving life in prison for the 1988 deaths of six Kansas City firefighters has been denied early release.

A federal judge in Kansas City on Thursday denied a motion filed by Bryan Sheppard arguing that he was entitled to immediate release from prison.

Sheppard’s lawyers argued that because of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, Sheppard could have only legally been sentenced to 10 years in prison, and he has already served more than 20 years.

The defense argued that his sentence was improperly enhanced because a judge, and not a jury, considered the factors used to increase his sentence.

But in Thursday’s ruling, U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. denied the request on several grounds, including the fact that at the time he was sentenced, Sheppard signed a waiver giving up his right to a jury sentencing.

Sheppard, now 45, was 17 in November 1988 when an arson fire triggered a massive explosion at a south Kansas City construction site, killing the six firefighters.

He was the only juvenile among the five defendants convicted in the case.

And because of his age, he has been granted a new sentencing hearing after the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to impose mandatory prison sentences of life without parole on juveniles.

Attorneys are in the process of preparing for that hearing, and a date has not been set.

Tony Rizzo: 816-234-4435, @trizzkc

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