POTOSI, MO—Almost two decades after Michael Hollings was put on death row for the murders of 76 men, women, and children across Missouri, evidence uncovered by an exclusive Onion investigation has exonerated him of three of the brutal slayings, restoring his dignity when he thought all had been lost.
“I’m so happy to finally have my good name back,” Hollings told reporters Wednesday from his cell at Potosi Correctional Center. “I always told people I could never, ever kill more than 73 people, but when you’re locked in a cage all day, ain’t no one going to hear you out.”
“I wish Mama could have seen this,” added a tearful Hollings, in reference to his mother and fourth victim, Barbara Watts-Hollings. “She’d be real proud of her boy today.”
Frustrated by the incompetence of his public defender but determined to prove he was innocent of a negligible percentage of the horrific crimes for which he received a death sentence, Hollings wrote to reporters from this newspaper last year, confident they would work tirelessly to see justice done.
The Onion’s painstaking investigation, conducted by more than 50 dedicated journalists, revealed that prosecutors suppressed key evidence supporting Hollings’ claim that on the same night he supposedly killed three 7-year-old girls at a slumber party in Blue Springs, he was in fact tearing out the organs of a jogger in the Columbia area.
In addition, a DNA test released to reporters by an anonymous law enforcement source demonstrated conclusively that the semen taken from the three girls did not match the semen deposited by Hollings in the mouths, rectums, and eye sockets of his other victims.
“It’s hard when everyone thinks you did something terrible that you know you didn’t do,” said Hollings, adding that it made him sick to think of preying upon anyone under the age of 10. “But I’m glad at least you reporter guys believed in me when no one else would. Now I can walk around with my head held higher than it’s been in a long time.”
“A lot higher,” added Hollings, cracking a smile.