Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Ricky Kidd

Other Missouri Exonerations
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Ricky_Kidd.jpeg
On the morning of February 6, 1996, three men dressed in black fled in a white car after robbing and murdering 32-year-old George Bryant and 38-year-old Oscar Bridges at Bryant’s home in Kansas City, Missouri.

When police arrived at 11:50 a.m., officers discovered Bryant’s four-year-old daughter, Kayla, in the garage. She was crying and still on the phone with the 911 operator. George Bryant, who had been shot multiple times, was lying in a pool of blood in the snow in his front yard. Bridges was found in the basement with his feet, hands, and mouth bound with duct tape. He had been shot twice in the back of the head.

Kayla told the police that she was eating a McDonald’s Happy Meal and watching television when men came to the house in a white car. Her father opened the garage door to let them in and while they were in the kitchen, she heard a gunshot. She said her father fell and Bridges ran downstairs, followed by one of the men. She heard more shots.

Kayla said two men searched her father’s pockets and rooms in the house, while the third man was in the basement. At that point, her father got up and tried to run, but was shot again. She said that “Daddy’s brother” shot him, adding, “but it wasn’t Daddy’s brother.” She said she didn’t know who that meant. She said the men had come to the house two days earlier. She said that one of the men—the “fat one”—came back into the house and told her it was going “to be all right.” She said the other man was the “skinny one.”

Police received numerous anonymous calls naming 10 different men as suspects, including 21-year-old Ricky Kidd, Marcus Merrill, Gary Goodspeed, Sr., and Gary Goodspeed, Jr. On February 10, 1996, Kayla was shown a photographic lineup that included Kidd, Merrill, and Goodspeed, Jr. She identified Merrill as the man who told her it was going to be all right—the “fat one.” She did not identify Kidd or Goodspeed.

Police arrested Kidd on February 14, 1996, along with his girlfriend, Monica Gray. They were separated and interrogated. Their account of the day of the crime was largely the same: They were together all day and agreed to watch D.J., the son of Kidd's sister, Nikki Kidd, while Nikki was at work. In the morning, Kidd, Gray and D.J. went to Nikki's office to pick up Ricky Kidd’s car. Then, after stopping at a McDonald’s to buy lunch for D.J., they went to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office at Lake Jacomo to apply for a gun permit.

Before Kidd and Gray were released, Kidd agreed to stand in a video-taped lineup and also allowed police to search his car and belongings.

Six pairs of Kidd’s shoes were compared to shoeprints found in in Bryant’s kitchen, one of which was on a piece of bread and the other in blood on the linoleum. His shoes, as well as the shoes of the victims, were excluded as the source of the shoeprints.

On March 11, 1996, Richard Harris, who lived near Bryant, was arrested on a parole violation. During questioning, he claimed that he was walking past Bryant’s house when Bryant, pursued by two men, ran out of his garage, yelling, “Somebody help!” Harris said one of the men was carrying a gold-plated pistol. He said that one man grabbed Bryant and took him to the ground, while the other man walked up and shot him. Harris said he fled when the two men saw him. Harris tentatively picked Kidd out of a photographic lineup as the man who shot Bryant, and then identified Kidd from the video-tape of the lineup conducted after the February 14 arrest. Harris also identified Goodspeed, Jr. as the man who tackled Bryant.

On April 11, Kayla viewed a video lineup that included Kidd and she picked him as the “skinny one,” although he weighed well over 200 pounds.

Police began investigating Goodspeed, Jr. as well as his father, Gary Goodspeed, Sr. and Merrill, all of whom lived in Georgia where Merrill and Goodspeed, Jr. shared an apartment.

Airline records showed that the three men flew from Atlanta to Kansas City several days prior to the murders and stayed at an Adam’s Mark Hotel before returning to Georgia after the murders. Alamo Rent-A-Car records showed that Goodspeed, Sr. rented a white Oldsmobile, which fit the description of the getaway car. The elder Goodspeed’s fingerprint was found on a Carmex lip balm wrapper with a price tag from a “Good to Go” store—one of which was a block and a half from Bryant’s home.

On May 22, 1996, police arrested Kidd again. He told Detective Jay Pruetting that he had been with Gray all day and that whoever had identified him had confused him with someone else—possibly his uncle, Gary Goodspeed, Sr.

In June 1996, after Kidd and Merrill were charged with the murders, Kidd’s sister, Nikki, went to police headquarters and told Detective Pruetting that Kidd was in his apartment when she left there for work. She said she took Kidd’s Toyota Corolla, which he retrieved from her around 11:30 a.m.—about the same time as the murders. She told Pruetting that there were security cameras outside her work place that likely would show Kidd coming and going. However, police never investigated to determine if there was video showing Kidd.

That same month, Kidd reached out to Detective Pruetting and said police had the wrong man. He told Pruetting that the three killers were Merrill and the Goodspeeds. Kidd said that Goodspeed, Sr., had called him and admitted that they killed Bryant and Bridges. When Pruetting asked why Kidd had not provided that information earlier, Kidd said he was scared for himself and his family, and he thought the police would figure out who the killers were. When Kidd offered to testify against Merrill and the Goodspeeds, Pruetting told Kidd that his defense lawyer had to work that out with the prosecution.

Kidd’s defense lawyer, Teresa Anderson, told Kidd not to speak to the police. She prepared to argue at trial that Merrill committed the murders with the Goodspeeds. However, she was limited in what evidence she could present—most of what she knew was based on hearsay, which was not admissible. She had a private investigator try to track down the Goodspeeds and subpoena them to put them before the jury—even if they refused to testify. Anderson informed the prosecutor, Amy McGowan, that she was trying to find the Goodspeeds, but had been unable to locate them.

In March 1997, Kidd and Merrill went to trial in Jackson County Circuit Court. Merrill’s attorneys, Kate Ladesh and Mona Spencer, claimed that Kidd committed the crime with the Goodspeeds—a defense that was at odds with Kidd’s defense that the crime was committed by Merrill and the Goodspeeds.

When Kayla took the witness stand, prosecutor McGowan asked, “Can you look around and do you see either of those men that were at your house that day with your daddy?”

Kayla replied, “No.”

McGowan said, “You don’t see them? You don’t see them here?”

“No,” Kayla said.

McGowan then established that Kayla picked Merrill out of a photographic lineup as the “fat one.”

“You didn’t pick out the skinny guy?” McGowan asked.

“He wasn’t in none of the pictures,” Kayla said.

McGowan asked about the video lineup that Kayla saw. Kayla said she picked out Merrill, but not Kidd. McGowan tried again.

“I’m going to ask you to look around again,” she said to Kayla. “Do you see anybody in here that might have been at your house that day?”

“No,” Kayla said.

McGowan was granted a recess at that point and when the trial resumed, she had no more questions for Kayla. However, McGowan subsequently called a detective who testified that Kayla had, in fact, identified Kidd in the video lineup.

Richard Harris testified and identified Kidd as the gunman who shot Bryant, although his account varied widely over time. He initially told police that he did not see Bryant until the moment he was shot, and that the only person he saw at Bryant’s house the day of the shooting was Bridges. However, in a pre-trial deposition, he said he not only saw Bridges, but also two other people whom he did not recognize in Bryant’s garage and Bryant was there.

He said that he and Bryant were “just neighbors on the block” and that he did not associate with Bryant. He said he was a “good guy doing a good deed.”

No physical evidence connected Kidd to the crime. No murder weapons were ever recovered.

Kidd’s sister, Nikki, testified that she and her son, D.J., spent the night before the day of the shooting at Kidd’s apartment because she had a quarrel with her roommate. She said that the next morning, she drove to her job at a mutual fund office in Kidd’s Corolla and Kidd and Gray agreed to watch D.J. for the day.

Lawson Gratts, a family friend, testified that he helped Kidd jump-start his 1981 Oldsmobile that morning so that Kidd could drive to his sister’s office and retrieve his Corolla. Nikki’s co-worker, Alina Wesley, testified that she saw Kidd collect the keys from Nikki around 11 or 11:30 a.m.

Kidd’s girlfriend, Monica Gray, testified that she and D.J. accompanied Kidd to get the keys and that she then drove the Oldsmobile back to their apartment, followed by Kidd in the Corolla. Then, Gray, Kidd and D.J. drove to the Sheriff’s Office to fill out a gun permit application.

Jackson County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tim Buffalow identified a copy of the application signed by Kidd and dated February 6, 1996—the day of the shooting. The defense introduced computer records showing that a criminal record check was run on Kidd at 1:37 p.m. that day, although Buffalow said during cross-examination that it was possible the application came in February 5—the day before the shooting.

Kidd testified and denied involvement in the shooting. His testimony was consistent with the accounts given by the other defense witnesses as to his whereabouts on the day of the shooting.

During closing arguments, Merrill’s defense lawyer told the jury that the Goodspeeds were involved in the murders. Since witnesses said only three men were involved, the attorney argued, that meant the third person was either Merrill or Kidd. To support the theory that Kidd was the third person, Merrill’s lawyer argued that Kidd’s fingerprint had been found in the white car rented by Goodspeed, Sr.

In fact, the only fingerprint identified as Kidd’s was found on the window of Kidd’s 1981 Oldsmobile—his own car. Nonetheless, the prosecution did not object to the argument that Kidd’s fingerprint was on the getaway car.

Prosecutor McGowan didn’t question Kidd’s claim that he had applied for a gun permit, but she contended that the application was filed on February 5, the day before the shooting.

On March 24, 1997, the jury convicted Kidd and Merrill of first-degree murder and armed criminal action. Both were sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Both of their convictions were upheld by the Missouri Court of Appeals.

In 2003, Kidd filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Hearings were held in the summer of 2009. The witnesses included Merrill, who testified that he committed the crime with the Goodspeeds. He admitted that he did not come forward until after he had lost all of his appeals. He also admitted that he was hoping that by coming forward to exonerate Kidd and to offer to testify against the Goodspeeds, he might get a sentence reduction.

Merrill said he worked for Goodspeed, Sr. and that he came to Kansas City with the Goodspeeds. On the morning of the murders, Merrill said he was at the home of Eugene Williams—whom neither the police nor the defense ever interviewed—in Kansas City. Goodspeed, Sr. came over and said he was going to Bryant’s home to buy cocaine. Merrill said that when he and the Goodspeeds arrived at Bryant’s home, Bryant raised his garage door and welcomed them inside. There, Goodspeed, Sr. pulled out his gun and told Bryant to “give it up.”

Merrill said Bryant rushed Goodspeed, Sr., and Goodspeed, Sr. shot him, dropping him to the floor. Bridges then was taken down to the basement and shot. Merrill said that when Bryant attempted to escape through the garage, he shot Bryant in the back with his nine-millimeter pistol. Goodspeed, Sr. then came out and shot Bryant again, Merrill said.

Merrill said Kidd was not involved in the shooting.

Eugene Williams testified that he was present when Merrill and the Goodspeeds were planning to rob Bryant. Williams testified that on the morning of the murders, Goodspeed, Sr. was armed with a .45-caliber pistol, Goodspeed, Jr. had a .38 revolver, and Merrill had a nine-millimeter pistol.

Harris testified and admitted that he at the outset he did not tell police that earlier in the morning of the shooting, he saw both Goodspeeds and a third man enter Bryant's garage. He said he was worried police might consider him a suspect in the murders and that he wanted to direct the police away from him. Harris stood by his identification of Kidd as the shooter.

Harris was cross-examined about a sworn statement that he gave prior to the habeas hearing during which he said the shooter had long hair. At the time of the shooting, Kidd was completely bald. In addition, Harris said the shooter was wearing a “fawn-colored” jacket, despite other witnesses who said the three men who fled the scene were wearing long black coats, black pants, and black stocking caps. Harris admitted that earlier on the day of the shooting, he had smoked marijuana. He also admitted that he had done drugs with Bryant in the past and was angry with him because he believed Bryant was responsible for the murder of Harris’s friend.

Kidd’s lawyers presented evidence that Bryant was known to refer to Goodspeed, Jr. as “brother,” which cleared up the mystery of Kayla’s statement to police that “Daddy’s brother killed Daddy.”

Kidd testified and again denied being involved. He did admit that he had met with Goodspeed, Sr. the day prior to the murders and that Goodspeed, Sr. wanted Kidd to murder Bryant. Kidd testified that he told Goodspeed, Sr. that he would not murder Bryant. The next day, Kidd said he and Gray talked about warning Bryant, but they were worried about putting themselves in danger. Kidd said he was “devastated” when he heard the news of Bryant’s murder.

Kidd said that the day after the murders, Goodspeed, Sr. paged him to meet. Kidd agreed to meet, but had Gray accompany him and wait in the car with the engine running so that Goodspeed, Sr. would know there was another witness in case he wanted to harm Kidd. During the meeting, Kidd said Goodspeed, Sr. admitted he had killed Bryant. Kidd said he faked a phone call and sent a message to Gray, who came to the door and they left. He said he admitted he had lied about not meeting with Goodspeed, Sr., but did so out of fear for his and Gray’s safety.

Jackson County Sheriff’s deputy Susan Jordan testified by deposition that she had conducted the background check on Kidd’s gun permit application and that it was impossible for the application to have been filed on February 5; it could only have been filed on February 6 as Kidd and Gray testified.

In December 2009, Senior U.S. District Court Judge Scott Wright denied the habeas petition. Judge Wright concluded that Merrill was not a credible witness, and that he only came forward when he was out of options to cut his sentence.

In August 2011, the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld Judge Wright’s decision. The court said that under the law, Kidd was required to present new reliable evidence that was not available at the time of the trial, and that the new evidence presented during the habeas hearing was in fact available at the time of the trial.

Kidd, who was represented by attorneys Tricia Bushnell and Rachel Wester of the Midwest Innocence Project, as well as attorneys Cynthia Dodge and Sean O’Brien, then filed a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus. More investigation was completed and hearings were held in April 2019.

On August 14, 2019, Dekalb County Circuit Court Judge Daren Adkins granted the petition, vacated Kidd’s convictions, and ordered a new trial.

In a 107-page ruling, Judge Adkins ruled that the prosecution had failed to disclose to Kidd’s defense lawyer that at the time of the trial, police had the Goodspeeds under surveillance in Kansas City because of a belief they were attempting to intimidate witnesses. Moreover, the Goodspeeds had been questioned under oath in a deposition conducted in the prosecutor’s office on the Friday before the trial began. Although Merrill’s lawyer was present, Kidd’s lawyer was not and was never told the depositions had occurred. In the depositions, both Goodspeeds testified that they were with Merrill at the time of the crime, and they did not see Ricky Kidd at all on that day. Goodspeed, Jr., also testified that he and Merrill had been to Bryant’s house a few days before the murder, consistent with Kayla Bryant’s testimony that the men who shot her father had been at the house in the days before the murders. Had the transcripts of the depositions been disclosed to Kidd’s lawyer, she could have used them to present otherwise inadmissible hearsay testimony or subpoena the Goodspeeds to testify, the judge ruled.

With the depositions, Kidd’s defense lawyer “could have presented Kidd’s complete testimony about how he knew who committed the crime,” the judge ruled.

In addition, the prosecution failed to disclose that Harris had been housed in a hotel at the prosecution’s expense for two or three weeks prior to the trial.

“If the Goodspeed depositions, surveillance records and the State’s protection of Harris to hide him from the Goodspeeds had been disclosed, (Kidd’s defense lawyer) would have had the information to present a complete defense,” Judge Adkins declared.

Judge Adkins excoriated Harris as a liar whose testimony was completely unreliable. At the hearing before Adkins, Harris admitted that he had recanted his identification of Kidd in 2018 and that he lied to cover up that he was dealing crack cocaine with Bryant on the day of the murders. “The Court concludes that Harris’s identification of Kidd is completely unreliable,” the ruling said.

Judge Adkins said that after hearing testimony from Dr. Allison Foster, an expert in child forensic interviewing, he concluded that the detectives who interviewed Kayla after her initial identification of Merrill and failure to identify Kidd engaged in suggestive questioning. “The questions are pointed, leading and suggestive. She at times provides nonsensical answers, and at other times adopts answers suggested to her,” Judge Adkins ruled.

Kayla’s identification of Kidd in the video lineup was the result of suggestive procedures, including: not enough fillers; the previous exposure to Kidd’s photograph in the photographic array; the passage of time after the crime; that she was in room full of officers at the time she watched the video lineup; and that she was sitting on the lap of her mother—who by that time believed Kidd was the gunman, the judge wrote. “The Court finds that Kayla Bryant’s out-of-court identification of Kidd is unreliable.”

In the end, Judge Adkins ruled that the evidence “establishes innocence from multiple angles.” The evidence, he said, showed that Kidd was not involved, that his alibi was truthful and that the inescapable conclusion was that Bryant and Bridges were murdered by the Goodspeeds and Merrill.

On August 15, 2019, Kidd was released from prison. On September 13, 2019, the prosecution dismissed the charges.

– Maurice Possley

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 9/20/2019
State:Missouri
County:Jackson
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Illegal Use of a Weapon
Reported Crime Date:1996
Convicted:1997
Exonerated:2019
Sentence:Life without parole
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:21
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No