Frequently Asked Questions

Questions we hear most often

1Were everyone's phone records checked, to see if Anastasia made any calls after getting out of Justin's car?

Not many people had cell phones in 1997. No one in Anastasia's circle did. Sgt. Kilgore tried to get any records he could, but Southwestern Bell Telephone (the local provider in Kansas City) told him that they only had the capability to provide a line's last-dailed number.

2 Was a check of Truman Rd. businesses done, between I-435 and the WitbolsFeugen home, for security-camera video showing Anastasia walking past

A Jackson County Sheriff's Department officer canvassed the Blue Summit area, talking with locals who might have seen Anastasia walking, her last night alive. This was how the Amoco mechanic, Don Rand, was found. But by the time anyone thought to seek out video, any video tape (digital recording was still a few years away from common use) that might have disproved Kelly's story had long since been erased or destroyed.

3How did Kelly provide details about Anastasia's death if she didn't really witness it?

In her first interview after accusing Byron, Kelly Moffett told Sgt. Kilgore that Anastasia was shot "in the head" (as opposed to the more precise "in the nose" or even just "in the face") from five feet away "or a bit over," but that Byron "was close to [Anastasia], though" (two contradictory answers). Asked how Byron held the gun she said he "probably" held it up to his shoulder (speculation you'd expect from someone describing a scene they never saw). On her drive to retrace their alleged route, she couldn't point Sgt. Kilgore to where in the tiny Lincoln Cemetery Anastasia's body had lain. At Kelly's sworn disposition, before trial, she told Byron's court-appointed lawyer that the distance between Anastasia and her supposed killer was eight or ten feet — "maybe a bit further" — when the "long gun" (originally reported as an old double-barreled shotgun, changed to something vague when questions turned specific) was fired.
TV news reports, articles in the Kansas City Star and Independence Examiner, Anastasia's open-casket funeral, frequent updates to Anastasia's memorial website, and numerous exchanges with Robert WitbolsFeugen as early as 1998 supplied the few general, verifiable facts Kelly did give. The rest of her account was deliberately noncommittal, impossible to know (and therefore impossible to argue against), or nonspecific.

4 Were there ever any other suspects in this case?

The Jackson County Sheriff's Department never declared anyone a suspect in their homicide investigation until Kelly accused Byron of murdering Anastasia in 2000. Before that, Cpt. Tom Phillips (now retired) told the Kansas City Star this was "more than likely" a case of murder-suicide. Even with that as their prevailing theory, not even Justin was declared a suspect.

5 What does the Bruton family have to say about the theory of the case, put forth here and elsewhere, that Justin shot Anastasia or assisted her in shooting herself?

Justin Bruton's family have been silent since Byron's trial, refusing to have any involvement with the case. Only they know why.

6Did Kelly collect the reward money offered for information that led to an arrest?

The $15,000 reward offered in Anastasia's case comprised $1,000 pledged by TIPS and $14,000 in donations from the WitbolsFeugen and Bruton families. TIPS (an international program that takes anonymous tips on felony caes, then forwards the information to law enforcement agencies) only pays rewards for arrests resulting from calls to its hotline. Because Kelly went to the Jackson County Prosecutors Office with her story, instead of phoning it in, she wasn't eligible to claim the TIPS reward. The program put its $1,000 toward a different case and returned the $14,000 supplement to the families.

Legal Questions and Answers

1If Byron is actually innocent, why were all his appeals denied?

Appellate courts don't deal in matters of guilt or innocence. In Missouri, the grounds for appeal are strictly technical in nature: did the trial court abide by all applicable statutes and the constitution? was there evidence entered that was so prejudicial as to undermine the ability of a "reasonable" juror to reach a different verdict? and was the defense attorney so grossly incompetent (matters of trial strategy don't count) that his or her client was irreparably harmed? The bar is set extremely high for proving any of those claims, with the burden of proof belonging to the appellant. To best appreciate the challenge, consider that actual cases exist in which defense attorneys whom the court recognized as being drunk throughout the trial were not declared ineffective.

2 What is a "tacit admission," and how does the term apply to this case?

A. Missouri law says a tacit (unspoken) admission is made whenever someone

"fails to respond to or significantly acquiesces in the import of an inculpatory statement (e.g., by making a equivocal, ambivalent, or evasive response) when the inculpatory statement (1) was made in the presence and hearing of the accused, (2) was sufficiently direct, as would naturally call for a reply, and (3) was not made at a judicial proceeding, or while the accused was in custody or under arrest."

A few minutes into their June 5, 2001, phone conversation, Kelly moved from whining about her aclohol- and drug-induced memory problems to her recent contact with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department: They've called a bunch again. They called while I was in rehab. They showed up out there. [2-second pause] Yeah. [4-second pause] I don't understand, like, seriously, what all went on, or whatever, and I seriously — I hate to say this, but why, seriously why did you have to kill her? What was the whole fucking big deal? Could you explain that to me? [5-second pause] Because I don't get it. [3-second pause] Seriously. [2-second pause] Justin's dead for no reason; she's dead for no reason. It's just all fucked up. [1-second pause] And for some reason they're talking to me, because you won't talk. So I'm fucked. And it makes me look horrible because everybody already knows that I'm a fucking crackhead, that I'm a cokehead, that I'm an alcoholic. [1-second pause] And I don't remember shit. And if I try to talk to them, nothing's going to add up. [3-second pause] So, I mean, if you could seriously explain to me as to why you actually felt the need to kill her, then that would really help me feel better about the whole fucking thing. [8-second pause] I mean, was there seriously any reason to all of this? Byron didn't speak for three seconds, then said: We shouldn't talk about this. From a legal standpoint, Kelly's questions called for direct answers, which Byron didn't give, so the courts say Byron made a tacit admission. In the eyes of the law, it makes no difference to point out how Byron used language encouraging Kelly to be "up front" with authorities, how he "told them everything about this," or how important context is to understanding people's responses to different circumstances (in this case, that Byron had been avoiding Kelly for months; her call woke him up around midnight, while he was very sick; that Kelly's reputation for making up outrageous nonsense was something experience had taught Byron to take in stride; and that he may not even have been listening as she launched into an apparent drug-fueled rant. Byron's response to Kelly can either be taken as an admission or as his way of avoiding indulging in the latest in a long line of bizarre stunts by a deranged, unpredictable young woman. Sensible arguments can be made either way. Facts and evidence gathered since Byron's trial, however, make the argument for admission much weaker.

3Was there a protective order filed in 2011 because someone involved with this case was being threatened?

On April 15, 2011, a protective order was issued by the Jackson County Circuit Court, governing "DVDs, CDs, video tape(s), audio tape(s), crime scene photos, maps, trial exhibits, or any other similar contents, in whole or in part, of items collected, prepared, obtained, or acquired in the investigation of the death of Anastasia E. WitbolsFuegen." The motion for the order was jointly filed by Theresa Crayon (lead prosecutor at Byron's trial) and Tiffany Murphy (now former legal director of the Midwest Innocence Project).
The order restricted viewing of the case evidence to these two attorneys, "their counsel, and their counsel's employees, investigators, or expert witnesses," plus Byron himself. Disclosing anything from the case file to anyone outside this circle meant a contempt-of-court charge and possible jail time. (This didn't keep Theresa Crayon from handling over all sorts of documents, audio recordings, and photos to Scott Steinberg Productions, for its On the Case with Paula Zahn episode about Anastasia's death, which aired on Investigation Discovery in 2014.)
The order's language was overly broad. More importantly, it had been violated by multiple parties for years. Not only that, but because neither Ms. Murphy nor the MIP had any agreement to represent Byron, and never consulted him about filing anything on his behalf, Cynthia Short arranged for the order to be dismissed in June of 2016. Back to top

Campaign Questions and Answers

1Have Byron or the FBC Campaign reached out to the Innocence Project or any other similar nonprofit that offers legal aid to the wrongfully convicted?

The Innocence Project is a New York-based organization that works to free innocent people whose cases have DNA or arson evidence. Other organizations around the country usually take only cases in their geographic region. Most of them are very small, staffed by a handful of passionate volunteers with extremely limited resources. Missouri has the Midwest Innocence Project, which has no connection to the Innocence Project in New York. The MIP spent from 2010 to 2015 collecting records and repeatedly interviewing Byron at the prison. When Cynthia Short convinced the MIP to turn over its file in late-2015, not much work product had been generated. This seems strange, considering their 2012 assessment of Byron's case concluded optimistically, with the opinion that "it is possible to prove Mr. Case innocent of this murder," and their repeated assurances led us to believe that they were close to being able to file a habeas corpus petition on Byron's behalf.

The MIP fundraises aggressively and makes claims about being "involved" in active litigation as well as several prominent exonerations, but we've learned it won't release its financial records for review by the Better Business Bureau and has yet to actually exonerate a single innocent person.

2 Why isn't the trial transcript available on this site?

The information presented at trial was limited and biased by both sides' strategies. Some evidence was suppressed, some was improperly brought in. There's more to be learned about the case from information now available, and from early reports that include the unrehearsed statements of witnesses, so we've chosen to present that material instead, in the name of accuracy.

We won't let this injustice stand.
Join us today in helping right the wrong and freeing Byron Case!