Friends, family gather at vigil to show support for Joshua Kezer

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- A small group of friends and family gathered Monday night at a Columbia church to show support for Joshua C. Kezer, convicted 14 years ago for the murder of a Southeast Missouri State University student.

Today, a Cole County circuit judge will hear testimony challenging Kezer's 1994 conviction for the murder of Angela Mischelle Lawless and arguments that key evidence was withheld during his original trial.

Jane Williams, a retired social worker in Columbia who befriended Kezer and took an interest in the case more than 10 years ago, organized the gathering Monday night at Christian Fellowship Church as a way for friends and family to share prayer, support and stories about Kezer, now 33.

"I appreciate all the support, some of these people I don't even know, and they may not even know Josh, but they know of him," said Joan Kezer, his mother.

The 15 years since her son's arrest for the 1992 murder have been fraught with false hope, she said, but she feels confident the truth will come out during the hearing.

"I don't want him hurt anymore," Joan Kezer said.

The small meeting room at the church held several bulletin boards displaying pictures of Kezer. Those who attended thumbed through notebooks containing poetry written by Kezer, artwork and letters written to his mother while he was in Jefferson City Correctional Center.

Kezer is currently serving a 60-year sentence for the murder, which occurred Nov. 8, 1992, in Benton, Mo.

In 2006, Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter reopened the investigation into Lawless' murder, believing there was more to the story.

Since then, he has been unable to find anything linking Kezer to the crime, he has said in previous interviews.

The new investigation unearthed an old police report, taken 10 days after Lawless was killed, casting doubt on eyewitness testimony placing Kezer near the crime scene.

The report was not presented at Kezer's original trial.

Physical evidence never linked Kezer to the crime, and several witnesses who implicated Kezer in their original statements to investigators have recanted their stories.


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