Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Kay Lincoln was 13 years old when her father, Rodney Lincoln was arrested for a murder that he did not commit. He has now been in prison for going on 30 years of his life and all the while maintaining that he is innocent. This story unfolded in April of 1982 when JoAnn Clenney Tate was brutally murdered and her children brutally assaulted. The police said that because there was no sign of forced entry that it was suggested that JoAnn Tate knew the man that entered her apartment between midnight at 4:00 A.M. Kay Lincoln suggested today when I met with her this morning that perhaps she was simply sitting outside and left her door unlocked when the perp entered her apartment. Perhaps he forced Ms. Tate inside where the crimes were committed.

There are tons of possibilities as to what happened that horribly memorable night, but nothing to truly suggest that Rodney Lincoln committed these crimes. My heart goes out to Ms. Tate's children and family, but the evidence does not suggest that the man who ended JoAnn Tate's life and permanently scarred her children was Mr. Lincoln. Melissa Davis was a mere 7 years old when the event occured and her sister Renee only 4. Melissa had many inconsistencies to her story which is typical when interviewing a traumatized child. After what had been done to Melissa she was in no shape able to recount details of that night, and at best lucky to have survived the ordeal. She never mentioned Rodney Lincoln during the first whole month of questioning and eventually said that she knew the man who had committed the crimes drove a taxi, and mentioned the name, "Bill." Melissa stated that she heard her mother call out this name though she later recanted that statement saying that she felt pressured to provide a name and made it up.

The homicide detective that was investigating the case became very close to the girls and questions have been raised in regard to how Joseph Burgoon pinpointed Mr. Lincoln. These were two scared little girls who had something horrific happen to them in the middle of the night. If JoAnn Tate was having a man over to visit that late a mother would suspect that only one or two lights would be on and away from the bedrooms as to not wake the children. This could suggest that perhaps it was dark enough that the girls had never really seen the man. Yet, this question wasn't to my knowledge raised. Also, the sexual nature of the crime would suggest that perhaps this man had committed sexually driven crimes in the past. A murderer who is out to kill someone does just that...they kill. They may do it brutally but the sexual nature brings into light a different kind of criminal. Mr. Lincoln and Ms. Tate briefly dated almost a year prior to the crime and it was never serious, they simply went their seperate ways.

Rodney Lincoln was an easy target as he had gone to prison before for killing a man in 1972 in self-defense. He readily admitted to the crime and excepted the consequences.. Kay Lincoln stated that she knows her father is an innocent man that made a mistake in the past, but had since earned an honest living, settled down with the woman he had been seeing, and taking care of his children. He had changed his life and was moving on. The prosecution however wasn't moving on and that stigma made him an easy suspect. Mr. Lincoln was with his girlfriend the night of the assault. She had spent the night with him at his mother's house and the three of them were at home until Mr. Lincoln took her home prior to going to work at 8:00 A.M., but the jury seemed to dismiss this fact.
Since DNA evidence couldn't be tested at the time of the trial it was not entered in and when it was available there was a refusal to submit it as evidence. It wasn't until Kay Lincoln got more involved as an adult that more questions were raised. The Innocense Project became involved with the situation and the pressure was on. The next step is an evidentiary hearing of the DNA evidence and whether or not it would be admitted if perhaps there was another appeal. The evidence has been tested and it was confirmed that the hairs there were found were not those of Rodney Lincoln. There were two strands of hair that were from two different men, neither of them Mr. Lincoln. Was there an accomplice that night, and why did they target JoAnn Tate and her children? Nobody can answer that question until the real criminal is found, but instead of looking for the real criminal the prosecution was satisfied that they had someone in prison for the crimes committed, whether he was guilty or innocent.

When I visited Kay it was Labor Day morning and although she had family over and was preparing to visit her mother's house for a BBQ she allowed me to come over. It was during a BBQ when he was arrested in front of his family. I looked at the stacks of paperwork that she has collected and even the letter that Melissa Davis wrote to him in prison. Now an adult she still believes that he was the man that killed her mother. Kay remains positive that not only is her father innocent but that there is enough evidence if the courts take a deeper look that he should be a free man. She wears her Free Rodney Lincoln bracelet and a button with his picture on it proudly. She hopes that this nightmare will come to an end and hopes that they find the real criminal(s) so that everyone can find peace. Kay told me that her father had stopped smoking and his reason why; he said to her, "So that I can stay alive longer than they can fight." This is a man that has missed out on so much of his life. Even Kay's mother and step-father believe in Rodney's innocense even though the relationship wasn't the best. It says a whole lot to have so many people fighting for a man and not giving up after almost 30 years.

Kay Lincoln has become an advocate for other prisoners and their families going through the same fate as her father. She keeps in contact with them on the Free Rodney Lincoln group on facebook which is gaining more members constantly. The justice system is obviously flawed and people automatically assume that if a person is in prison they must be guilty, Kay asks that people just, "Listen." Like most human beings it is easy to make up our minds about something without having all the facts. This is why it was so easy to send Mr. Lincoln to prison. There is so much information about this case on the internet and it is hard to put yourself on that jury in your mind and say that Rodney Lincoln even had a shred of involvement into what happened that night, but yet the jurors sent him to prison for life.

This is a part of the letter that Kay Lincoln wrote to the parole board back in 2006:

"I wish to offer my deepest and most sincere sympathy to Miss Davis and her family for the loss they have suffered and the terrible ordeal she and the rest of her family have endured. I have become intimately familiar with the details of that ordeal over the last three years and it is an unspeakable tragedy no one should have to suffer.
                I realize this is not the proper platform for this argument to be made, but I would be remiss in not mentioning the fact that my father is totally and completely innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted.  I hope that will be proven sometime in the future and I realize that fact has no bearing on the decision to grant or not grant parole.
                It does however, have bearing on one thing that will, and should be, considered here today. My father is not now, and never has been a threat to society. I realize he was convicted of second-degree murder in 1972 and I am not discounting that fact. In that incident, he was engaged in a physical fight with a much bigger man. In self-defense he picked up a rock and hit the man in the head. That was the action of a young and foolish man who was being influenced by alcohol. He readily admitted his crime and he served his time for it. That was the one and only act of violence ever committed by Rodney Lee Lincoln.  I am not excusing or dismissing his behavior on that night but it was 34 years ago. He is still suffering the consequences, however indirectly. Because he committed that one terrible act he was labeled a violent murderer, which made convicting him for these horrible crimes just that much easier."

His parole was subsequently denied. So where do we find justice? Should this man stay in prison for the rest of his life because of a mistake in 1972, a death of a person that was unintentional that he paid his dues for and is remorseful to this very day? His punishment for that crime was served and over back in 1975. Anyone is capable of murder if that is the case. If I am driving down a dark road and someone in dark clothing is crossing the street and neither of us see each other until it is too late, I could go to prison for ending his/her life. Or like another story on the news where a woman shot an intruder in her own home and was arrested. Really, where does it end? Kay Lincoln and I definitely agree on one thing for sure; This country is led to believe that you are innocent until proven guilty however, this is not the case. People in this justice system are indeed guilty until proven innocent. There was no evidence that Mr. Lincoln had anything to do with what happened that night and had absolutely no motive to do it, but even without a shred of evidence he was guilty according to the court. Please show your support for the family. You can post comments here, you can join their facebook group, or contact me and I can forward any information to them.


  1. THANK YOU, thank you, thank you! With tears flowing once again, I am so happy to see a REAL journalist take an honest look at this case. We supporters sometimes feel so helpless! We love the Lincoln's like family, they are good people and deserve to have Rodney home where he belongs. Prayers continue on their behalf and for the other families of cases we support. Thank you!
    Gayle Plautz

  2. That means so much to me! Thank you so very much for appreciating the article, for calling me a real journalist, for commenting, and for staying supportive and hopeful for the families. I hope that it will definitely get more people involved into what goes on here in Missouri and make them realize that being labeled a prisoner of a crime doesn't necessarily make you a criminal.

  3. Very informative and insightful blog. Thank you for bringing this injustice to light.

  4. Thank you so much for getting involved and writing this blog! Rodney Lincoln is my uncle, my mom's little brother and we have believed in his innocence since the day he was charged with this horrific crime. My mom is 78 years old now and waiting for the day she can see her brother proven innocent. It helps keep us grounded to know that so many people support him and the family and see for themselves the injustice that has been served, not only for him, but for countless other innocent people who have lost so much of thier lives because of our justice system. You are a wonderful journalist and I look forward to your blogs concerning Ryan Ferguson and Michael Amick's cases. Thank you again Elizabeth Jason-Le. God Bless You!

  5. I just watched this story on crimewatchers daily on TV and it was said that a serial killer in the area at the time may be responsible, Tommy Lyn Sells or something like that, but he has since been executed. I hope they can get to the truth of the matter and set Mr. Lincoln free if he is in fact innocent. It's a horrible injustice to have an innocent man locked up, for life nonetheless. With Melissa's inconsistencies in her recounting of that night, i'm not sure why they found her competent to testify. She was a victim in this too, as was her little sister so I understand their need for justice but convicting and imprisoning the wrong man is not the answer. I wish all parties involved will one day find truth and closure