A 27-year-old Independence man admitted Wednesday that he beat a Smithville man to death in the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot during a 2013 Chiefs game.
Joshua T. Bradley pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter but will not serve prison time in the death of Kyle Van Winkle, 30, who suffered blunt force trauma to his head and neck during the Dec. 1, 2013, game.
Jackson County Circuit Judge Kevin D. Harrell sentenced Bradley to seven years but suspended the sentence and placed Bradley on probation for five years.
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Bradley pleaded guilty just before his trial was to begin in an eighth-floor courtroom inside the downtown Jackson County Courthouse.
The plea agreement was the best of three options presented to the victim’s family, Van Winkle’s wife testified before the sentence was pronounced.
“I will never forgive him (Bradley) for what he did,” Jennifer Van Winkle told the court. “He (Kyle) didn’t deserve this.”
While choking back tears, she said, “Kyle paid the ultimate price for this.”
He used to wake her in the middle of the night to kiss her and tell her that he loved her, she said.
After the hearing, defense attorney Pat Peters said media coverage about the case would have made it difficult for a jury to find his client not guilty.
“The probation disposition seems reasonable,” Peters said. “We have had to contend for two and a half years with a press conference by the prosecutor where she … lied and did not tell the whole story.”
Peters was referring to a press conference Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker held when she filed charges against Bradley.
Peters Baker on Wednesday offered a written response: “I’ll leave the hysteria and name-calling to defense counsel. My thoughts and prayers remain with this victim’s family.”
Van Winkle’s family declined to comment after the hearing. His father is a police sergeant in Grandview.
Van Winkle attended the game with his father, other relatives and friends. The group convoyed to the stadium in two vehicles and tailgated before the afternoon kickoff with a menu that consisted of chicken wings, brats and pasta salad.
But early in the game, Van Winkle — the father of a 7-week-old baby — excused himself from his row of friends and relatives to go to the restroom. He never returned.
He walked into the parking lot for unknown reasons and got into an apparently unlocked green Jeep similar to a vehicle in his tailgating convoy. The Jeep was parked in the same row where his group had parked but about 10 vehicles closer to the stadium.
There were no signs of a break-in of the Jeep.
According to court records, the Jeep’s owner and young son returned to the vehicle and found Van Winkle either passed out or sleeping inside. The owner attempted to wake Van Winkle, whom he believed to be intoxicated, and sent his son for help. Other tailgaters soon arrived at the Jeep.
An argument ensued between Van Winkle and one bystander, who mistook him for a thief.
After Van Winkle got punched and fell to the pavement, the attacker continued to hit him. The attacker left Van Winkle on the pavement. Another bystander propped him up against a bus.
After they noticed Van Winkle had turned blue, bystanders flagged down a security guard and started CPR.
Witnesses identified the attacker as Bradley. When investigators attempted to question him the day after the attack, Bradley requested an attorney, court records said.
Peters said their witnesses would have testified that Van Winkle used profanity and tried to hit Bradley, who along with others had come to the aid of a little boy. Bradley punched Van Winkle several times before Van Winkle fell.
Van Winkle suffered a very rare injury while his neck was extended and an artery to the brain began to leak, Peters said.
“Had we gone to trial, our medical examiner would have said it was a stroke,” Peters said.