As Kirkland resentencing continues, brother of first victim wants her to be remembered

CINCINNATI -- Anthony Kirkland's ongoing resentencing, during which jurors will decide whether the serial killer deserves the death penalty or life in prison for four brutal rapes and murders, isn't his second chance, as far as Leonard Douglas is concerned. It's his third. 

Douglas' twin sister, Leola, was 27 years old when Kirkland raped her, killed her and set her body on fire in 1987. He was convicted, but not of murder -- of manslaughter. He served 16 years of a 25-year sentence before returning to Cincinnati, where he would re-enact Douglas' murder four times within the next five years.

"It never should have happened," Leonard Douglas said Thursday. "After what he did to my sister, I feel like he should never have gotten out of jail. … He just got a slap on the hand, and then he turned around and did the same thing to four other females."

The last of those victims was 13-year-old Esme Kenney, who stepped off her front porch for an afternoon jog on March 8, 2009, and was found dead in the woods near her home hours later. She had been raped, strangled to death and burned from the waist down to prevent police from collecting a rape kit.

Kirkland was hiding less than 100 yards away with her iPod and purple watch in her pocket.

After his arrest for Kenney's murder, Kirkland confessed to three more carried out in the same fashion. Over a seven-month span in 2006, he had killed 14-year-old Casonya Crawford, 45-year-old Mary Jo Newton and 25-year-old Kimya Rolison, all of whom were burned beyond recognition after their deaths. Police identified their bodies using dental records.

Kirkland was convicted of all four murders and sentenced to death, but granted a resentencing hearing after the Ohio Supreme Court determined Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters made inappropriate comments during the trial.

The murder of his sister made Leonard Douglas feel helpless in the ‘80s, he said. Seeing the culprit do the same to four other people made him ache with sympathy for the victims' families, who found them suddenly immersed in a pain most would find hard to imagine.

"It's so hard on me, so I can just feel how hard it is on them," he said. "They still got fresh wounds. My wounds are old, but they hurt just as bad."

Casonya Crawford's grandmother, Patricia Crawford, said she doesn't hate Kirkland -- using her energy to hate him would be too self-destructive. She does, however, want to watch him die.

Douglas focused his animus on the system that allowed Kirkland to leave prison after his sister's murder but said he did believe the death penalty was an appropriate punishment. If Kirkland is executed, he'll be there, too.

"He was man enough to kill five innocent women," he said. "If they got the death penalty on the table, I feel they should keep it on the table."

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