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Pete Coones’ wrongful conviction in Kansas City, Kan. featured in upcoming ‘Dateline’

Luke Nozicka
·2 min read

A “Dateline NBC” episode airing Friday night will feature the wrongful conviction of Olin “Pete” Coones, Jr., who spent 12 years in prison before he was exonerated of murder in Kansas City, Kansas.

A preview of the episode starts with two of Coones’ children, Ben and Melody, recalling the day their father was arrested. He was driving them to a bus stop before school in April 2008 when men jumped out in front of them with guns drawn.

“There was an immediate onset of fear,” Ben Coones told the newsmagazine.

In a previous interview with The Star, Pete Coones said he initially thought he was getting carjacked. Then an officer pulled up in a squad car and pointed a shotgun in Ben’s face. Coones’ children were handcuffed.

Coones, who was 50 at the time, was charged with first-degree murder in a fatal shooting that unfolded hours earlier. It took the lives of Carl Schroll, 64, and his wife, Kathleen Schroll, 45, in their Kansas City, Kansas, home.

After two trials, Coones was convicted of killing Kathleen, but not Carl. His conviction was based in part on the word of an unreliable jailhouse informant who had a history that included at least 15 crimes of dishonesty, such as theft and burglary.

In November, Coones was exonerated and freed after his attorneys revealed the shooting was more likely a murder-suicide carried out by Kathleen. Coones died 108 days later on Feb. 21 from cancer that his lawyers say went undiagnosed during his wrongful incarceration. He was 64.

Pete Coones’ children, Ben and Melody, speak with Dateline NBC about their father’s wrongful conviction.
Pete Coones’ children, Ben and Melody, speak with Dateline NBC about their father’s wrongful conviction.

Last month, Coones’ children testified in support of a Kansas bill that would require prosecutors to promptly disclose to defense attorneys specific evidence relating to jailhouse witnesses. Lawmakers said afterward they were deeply moved by Coones’ children.

The Kansas House last week unanimously passed the bill, which Coones’ children said could have prevented their father’s wrongful conviction. His children have since called on the state Senate to take swift action to help prevent wrongful convictions.

Opposing this bill could quite literally mean life or death for an innocent person,” Melody told lawmakers in March.

The Dateline episode will feature interviews with Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree, the Schrolls’ daughter, Blair Hadley, and other people connected to the case. It will air at 8 p.m. Central Time Friday.