Tricia Rojo Bushnell
805.901.5710
tbushnell@themip.org

 

Branden Bell
785.218.2215
bbell@morganpilate.com

Lindsay Runnels
816.589.9241
lrunnels@morganpilate.com

Statement on the passing of Olin “Pete” Coones, Jr.

 

It is with great sorrow and outrage that the Midwest Innocence Project and the law firm of Morgan Pilate announce that exoneree Olin “Pete” Coones, Jr., passed away on February 21, 2021, just three and a half months after his exoneration and return to freedom on November 5, 2020. While he was only 64 years old, he re-entered the free world in a body that was broken.

Pete loved his family, though he had only 108 days reunited with them: Dee, his wife of over 40 years, and their children, Jeremiah, Ben, Quinn, Mariah, and Melody. During this too-short return to his family, Pete met his grandchildren for the first time, having been deprived of their joy and laughter for over a decade. Like so many grandfathers, he was smitten with them and wanted nothing more than to be their reliable source of extra treats and flexible rules.

Though Pete was no longer imprisoned, his death—like his unjust conviction—is the result of continued State neglect and mistreatment; the evidence suggests that he ultimately succumbed to health conditions that went undiagnosed and untreated during his time in prison.

We take a small measure of comfort that Pete died a free man. Yet nothing can restore all the State stole from him. Nothing will give him back the decade he should have had to spend with his family and loved ones. Nothing will give Pete’s family the upcoming birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays they should have shared with him. Pete served over 12 years for a crime he did not commit after investigators and prosecutors hid and manufactured evidence to wrongfully convict him of murder. The evidence that proved his innocence was available from the moment the police arrested him—collected and stored on a property-room shelf—only to be ignored by those determined to win at any cost. His life was stolen because his innocence did not matter.

We are not finished telling Pete’s story.  It is a tragic day for those who loved him. But our  resolve for accountability survives. We will keep demanding  justice in his memory because that is what he expected from us. We hold the broken hearts of the Coones family in our love.

 

You can support Pete’s family by donating to their GoFundMe here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/ua8gx