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Jurors hear Anthony Kirkland's dramatic confession in Esme Kenney murder

Police interview played in court Friday
Posted at 12:11 AM, Jul 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-27 19:51:23-04

WATCH the scene in the courtroom Friday and hear Kirkland's confession in the video player above.

CINCINNATI --  “What if this was Little Anthony we were looking for and we had somebody else sitting in that seat and we were asking them to help us? What would you want them to do?” a detective asked Anthony Kirkland.

"I'd want them to help if they could," Kirkland responded.

It was by reminding serial killer Kirkland of his love for his own son and making a connection with Esme Kenney's anguished parents that a police detective got Kirkland to confess to killing the 13-year-old and agree to lead officers to her body.

A jury heard the convicted five-time killer sniffle and even cry during his dramatic interrogation by Det. Keith Witherell, played in court Friday during Kirkland’s resentencing hearing. Court ended for the day before part of the interview - including Kirkland's full confession to all his killings -  was played.

At one point, Kirkland – perhaps struggling with his conscience or his fate - appeared to ask Witherell to shoot him. Moments earlier, Kirkland had referred to his age as "a dead 40."

“Are you asking me ... I’m not going to shoot you, no,“ the detective replied.

“Unless I’ve been completely mistaken about, I know you have a heart and a soul,” Witherell told Kirkland earlier.

“I got a heart and soul,” Kirkland insisted.

“I am asking you to be a decent man and tell these parents where their daughter is," Witherell said.

"I'm asking you to go against your instincts right now. I'm asking you to remember the decency, remember what it's like when you're around your son and how much you love your son."

WATCH the full 3-hour hearing here:


Under repeated comparisons to his relationship with Anthony Jr., and Witherell's pleading on behalf of Esme's parents, Kirkland finally gave in.

“Let me take you. I’ll take you,” Kirkland finally said.

Witherell: “You can?”

Kirkland: “Yes”

Witherell: “So you’re going to be the dad I think you are?”

Kirkland: “Yes.”

Witherell: “All right. You have to give me a couple minutes to coordinate some transportation.”

Time and time again through the interview, Kirkland insisted that he never saw Esme on the previous day, March 7, 2009, when she disappeared after leaving home to jog around the Winton Hills reservoir. Although police discovered Kirkland in nearby woods later that day with Esme’s watch and iPod, Kirkland had insisted he found them on the ground.

Kirkland said he remembered that Esme's digital watch showed 3:08 when he found it. Witherell, though, told him that was impossible - Esme was still at home at that time.

Over and over, Witherell asked Kirkland to “be a dad,”  pleading with him to tell where Esme’s body was to at least end her parents’ anxiety and asking him how he’d feel if Little Anthony was missing.

“What would Little Anthony want you to do?”  Witherell asked.

Even after agreeing to lead police to Esme,  Kirkland quipped that police should shoot him.

After Witherell asked Kirkland to point on a map where Esme was, Kirkland started to hedge, then said, "I'll help you. You've got pistols right? If I get it wrong or get stupid, pop me."

At that point, Kirkland still hadn't said he killed Esme, and Witherell started pressing Kirkland about what he had done to the 13-year-old. Kirkland said he punched her and stomped on her, but he said she was still alive.

Once Witherell started that line of questioning, any pretentions that Witherell was sympathetic with Kirkland disappeared.

Witherell: "Was it supposed to go down the way it went down?"

Kirkland, "No."

Witherell: "Well at least explain that to me. Give me something."

Kirkland: "Things kinda got out of hand, Keith .. It was an accident. My temper."

Kirkland said he "lost it"  after Esme bumped into him on her jog.

"She offered me her watch. She was apologetic," Kirkland said.

Witherell: "After you just kicked the ---- out of her?"  

Kirkland: "Yes."  

In 2010, Kirkland was convicted of raping and killing Esme and burning her body. He did the same to four other women and girls and served 16 years for the first killing.

Kirkland was sentenced to life for two more killings, and he got the death sentence for killing Esme and 14-year-old Casonya Crawford. But Kirkland appealed the sentence and the Ohio Supreme Court ordered a hearing.

In chronological order, here are courtroom tweets from WCPO’s Jay Warren that tell how the interview progressed to the point when Friday's hearing ended.