March 7 marks four years since Esme Kenney's murder

CINCINNATI - March 7 marks the fourth year since the tragic murder of Cincinnati School of Performing Arts student Esme Kenney.

Kenney was a 13-year-old seventh grade double major at the Cincinnati school, focusing on voice and cello.

Kenney went for a jog around the Winton Hills reservoir close to her home on March 7, 2009 when she was attacked and murdered by Anthony Kirkland.

"She had actually never been beyond our mailbox by herself," Esme's mother, Lisa Kenney said. Outings normally meant accompaniment by another family member.

Lisa Kenney was cleaning her home and told Esme she could go on a run by herself.

Lisa immediately felt that something was wrong and ran outside to look for her daughter.

After searching for Esme and not finding her, Lisa notified police, family members and friends to help in the search.

"As soon as [police] heard she was 13 they were like, you know, have you talked to her friends? Maybe she's with a friend. Maybe she's up at McDonald's?," she recalled the police saying.

Lisa stressed that her daughter was not the type to leave without telling someone and knew something horrible had happened to Esme.

A neighbor and K-9 Officer Jenny Ernst arrived and asked Lisa what Esme was wearing on her when she went for a jog.

On Ernst's search, she found Kirkland sitting underneath some fir trees close to where Emse had disappeared.

"He said that he was homeless and had been sleeping," Officer Ernst testified.

Ernst found Esme's purple watch and iPod in Kirkland's front pants pocket.

Kirkland gave officers a fake name and social security number while helicopters searched the reservoir for any sign of Esme.

Within 25 minutes, officers had located Esme's body. She was dead and was only wearing socks and shoes.

Lisa Kenney was critical of the initial police response when she reported Esme missing.

Since that time, police have instituted a new protocol for missing juveniles called ‘ESME Training."

The ESME program has resulted in the Cincinnati Police Department fielding a squad of specially trained officers to respond immediately and determine the appropriate resources and actions to best resolve the case.

The ESME program is an enhancement of the department's protocol from the moment a call is received at Police Communications section through the ultimate resolution of the case.

The ESME program is based on national best practices, resources from the University of Cincinnati Police Institute (UCPI), Association of Police Communications Officers (APCO), National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy Curriculum and the Ohio Revised Code, just to name a few.

Some notable enhancements include:

• No distinction between ‘critical' and ‘non-critical' missing persons. Each case is investigated based on its own circumstances and reporting classifications now mirror those used in the Ohio Revised Code.
• ESME trained officers and supervisors are required to respond to missing person calls for service.
• ESME trained first responder officers will utilize an investigative checklist to immediately gather critical information rather than relying on standard techniques.
• Officers and supervisors will be trained in quickly accessing outside resources such as Urban Search and Rescue (USAR), K9 search teams, Regional Computer Investigations Unit, etc. The department has signed mutual aid agreements with USAR and is networked with other agencies and resources designed to assist in such investigations.

This instilled more community confidence in the Departments ability to respond, investigate and resolve missing persons cases.

Police said Kirkland made recorded statements where he admitted killing Esme Kenney and three other women.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Charkes Kubicki Jr, agreed with the jury's recommendation for a death sentence.

Kubicki gave Kirkland two death sentences, one for the murder of Esme Kenney and one for the murder of Casonya "Sharee" Crawford.

He also gave two separate sentences of 70 years to life in prison for Kirkland's convictions for the murders of Mary Jo Newtown and Kimya Rolison.

According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Anthony Kirkland has not been scheduled for execution through 2015.

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