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August 10, 2012

Inmate presumed guilty of murder granted parole

A Kansas prison inmate who has spent more than three decades in prison for a murder he insists he didn’t commit has been granted parole.

A Kansas prison inmate who has spent more than three decades in prison for a murder he insists he didn’t commit has been granted parole.

Ronnie Rhodes, 57, who had been denied parole on eight prior occasions, was notified of the decision this week.

Kansas Department of Corrections spokesman Jeremy Barclay said Rhodes’ parole was granted on the condition that he be released to a state-approved structured living facility. Rhodes will remain at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility until his plans to move into such a facility are completed, Barclay said.

Rhodes was convicted of first-degree murder in the Feb. 2, 1981, stabbing death of Cleother Burrell, 48, whose body was found outside an apartment at 630 N. Topeka. Rhodes said he was at the apartment on the day of the murder but had nothing to do with the crime.

In 2010, Rhodes’ conviction caught the attention of students in a Washburn law school class that was studying wrongful convictions. The group said it found serious flaws in the investigation that led to Rhodes’ conviction, but it was unable to secure his release.

An ongoing investigation by the law school class and The Wichita Eagle was published in the paper and at Kansas.com/presumedguilty.

Prison officials said that during his time in prison, Rhodes received a paralegal degree through a correspondence course and became a mentor to other inmates through the Reaching Out from Within support group, which encourages nonviolent behavior.

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