Anthony Kirkland's reason for killing Esme Kenney: She reminded him of his son's mother

Posted at 6:38 PM, Jul 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-27 20:05:38-04

CINCINNATI - He flew into a rage when he saw his son’s mother in Esme Kenney’s face.

That’s what Anthony Kirkland says led him to kill the 13-year-old – the last of his five murder victims.

It was part of Kirkland's statement to police played in his resentencing hearing on Friday. Kirkland said his son’s mother didn’t allow him to see Anthony Jr., and his resentment over their troubled relationship turned into rage when Esme bumped into him while jogging alone near the Winton Hills reservoir on a March Saturday afternoon in 2009.

“It was a combination of a lot of things — my sense of helplessness, hopelessness, everything,” Kirkland told Det. Keith Witherell.

RELATED: How detective got Kirkland to confess

Kirkland said Esme apologized and offered him her watch, but Kirkland’s mind was in a different place.

Kirkland: “I saw my son’s mother. I saw Sherry. I saw a lot of things. I saw who she is.”

Witherell: “When you saw your son’s mother, what did you do then?”

Kirkland:  “Lost it.”

Witherell: “You lost it?  Does that mean you hurt her?

Kirkland: “Punched her.  Punched her a couple of times.

Witherell: “You punched a little girl?  Did you knock her out? “

Kirkland: “I know I kicked her, punched her in the stomach.  Kicked her and punched her.  Stomped her.”  

Kirkland told Witherell that Esme was alive when he left her, but soon after, a knock on the interrogation room door turned a missing person’s case into a murder.

Witherell: “The officers located the little girl. They located her in the woods and she’s dead.”

Kirkland: “Ooooo.”

A few hours after Esme’s mother reported her missing, officers found Kirkland asleep near the reservoir. Kirkland said he’d been drinking beer with a man named Pedro.

At first, Kirkland said he never saw Esme, even though he had Esme’s watch and iPod (engraved with her name). He said he found them on the ground.

Witherell: “Do you remember seeing a young girl?  She may have been out for a run or a job."

Kirkland: “I don’t remember seeing nothing.” 

But Kirkland’s story fell apart. He said he noticed the time on Esme’s digital watch was 3:08 when he picked it up. Esme's mom said she hadn’t left her house by then.

WATCH a recap of what happened in Friday's sentencing hearing:


In 2010, Kirkland was convicted of raping and killing Esme and 14-year-old Casonya Crawford and burning their bodies. Before that, Kirkland did the same to Mary Jo Newton and Kimya Rolison. But Kirkland hadn't been connected to the other killings and roamed free until police arrested him for killing Esme.

Kirkland was sentenced to life for killing Newton and Rolision and he got the death sentence for killing Esme and Crawford. However, Kirkland appealed the sentence and the Ohio Supreme Court ordered a hearing.

Jurors will hear the rest of Kirkland’s statement - including more details on the Kenney case and his confessions to killing  Crawford  - on Monday.