Angela “Mischelle” Lawless Murder: Where is Joshua Kezer Now?

Image Credit: S G Michael/Find a Grave

In 1992, 19-year-old Mischelle was found brutally murdered inside her car, shaking the entire tight-knit community of Benton, Missouri, to its core. When the suspicion falls on an unlikely stranger from out of town, the authorities close in on him. The episode titled ‘Benton, Missouri’ of AMC+’s ‘True Crime Story: It Couldn’t Happen Here’ takes the viewers in the middle of the riveting case with various twists and turns, while providing insightful information about the same with interviews with Mischelle’s loved ones and experts that worked on the case.

Angela “Mischelle” Lawless Was Found Dead in Her Car

Born on August 2, 1973, in Sikeston, Missouri, Angela Lawless AKA Mischelle entered the life of her parents Marvin James and Esther Lavera Duty Lawless as a little bundle of joy. Besides the love and support of her mother and father, she also grew up with two siblings — brother Jason Lawless and sister Valerie Lawless. In 1991, being a member of Benton Girl Scout Troop and Unity Church, she graduated from Kelly High School. She was also a hospital volunteer at St. Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau. Mischelle was well-loved and one of the most popular individuals in the small tight-knit community of Benton.

Image Credit: caleb/Find a Grave

Apart from being highly religious, she was also into karate and taekwondo. Her loved ones described her as a vibrant and kind-hearted person who loved her family. She had her first serious relationship with Leon Lamb, whom she had met through karate classes. The 19-year-old girl had a lot to look forward to as she had just joined Southeast Missouri State University for higher studies and was working at Shoney’s in Sikeston. However, her ambitions and dreams were cut short on November 8, 1992, when she was found dead in her car with the headlights on and the vehicle still running at the top of an exit ramp of Interstate 55 near Benton, Missouri.

When the police were informed of the brutal crime scene, they rushed over and discovered that Mischelle had been beaten and shot to death. Upon the autopsy of her body, the authorities found out that she had three gunshot wounds — the first was reportedly shot in the face, another one was in the back of the head, and the last one was on her back. The investigators also found several traces of blood in and around the vehicle, indicating that there was more than one perpetrator involved in the murder of the 19-year-old Mischelle.

A Stranger Was Found Guilty of Murdering Angela “Mischelle” Lawless

On the fateful night, a guy named Mark Abbott was the one who came across Mischelle’s car and body, after which he headed straight to the police station to inform them of the same. As the detectives dived deeper into the case, they began interrogating Mischelle’s family and friends. Soon, they learned that just a week or so prior to her murder, a girl named Chantelle Crider alleged that Mischelle was constantly bothered by Joshua “Josh” Kezer, who kept asking her out, at her friend Dawn Worley’s Halloween Party.

Apart from Josh, another one of Mischelle’s ex-partners, Day, was on the list of suspects. However, his alibi checked out as he claimed that he was at a party on the night of the murder. Mark Abbott alleged that he saw Josh at a convenience store near the crime scene on the fateful night. On the other hand, Josh claimed that he was in his residence in Kankakee, Illinois, about 350 miles away from the murder site. As more evidence pointed toward Josh, the police chose to ignore his claims of innocence and arrested him on April 7, 1993.

Joshua Has Been Exonerated and Lives in Greater Columbia Today

On June 13, 1994, Joshua Kezer’s trial for the murder of Mischelle commenced, and the key testimony was given by Mark Abbott and three jailhouse informants who testified that Josh had admitted to killing Mischelle to his cellmates while awaiting trial. However, before the trial, the three informants recanted their statements and confessed that they lied in hopes of receiving a reduced sentence for their own cases. The prosecution alleged that the defense coerced the recantations by threatening the informants.

A few days later, on June 17, Josh was found guilty of second-degree murder and got a 60-year imprisonment sentence, even though there was no blood, fingerprints, or murder weapon found that connected him to the crime. After about 15 years, Mischelle’s murder case investigation was reopened and a quest to find the real killer began. On December  2, 2008, Josh’s habeas corpus hearing began and Dawn Worley, the host of the Halloween Party in 1992, testified that Josh was not present at the party and Chantelle had lied about it.

It was also alleged that Kevin Williams and Mark Abbott had followed Mischelle on the night of the murder. In light of all the evidence in favor of Josh, the court exonerated him after finding him innocent of the murder of Mischelle on February 17, 2009, two days after his 34th birthday. A year and a half later, in August 2010, the innocent man filed a lawsuit against Bill Ferrell, Brenda Schiwitz, and Scott County, Missouri. As a result, he was able to receive financial compensation for his wrongful conviction.

After getting released from prison, Josh reportedly resides in Greater Columbia, Missouri, and works for the wrongfully convicted individuals, helping them prove their innocence and get released from prison. In his free time, he spends time with his pitbull Titan and practices martial arts. After his exoneration, he had also gotten involved in anti-sex trafficking. On May 15, 2023, he collaborated with his lawyer, Stephen R. Snodgrass, and published a book based on the entire debacle — ‘The Murder of Angela Michelle Lawless – an Honest Sheriff and the Exoneration of an Innocent Man.’

Currently, Josh enjoys his life as a free man but has not stopped working towards the causes he believes in. Professionally, he is a public speaker and producer but loves to indulge in ruck walks regularly while listening to podcasts and posts about it on social media. Apart from posting selfies and updating his followers on his life events, he also posts quite a lot about Titan, who underwent major surgery in September 2023. Meanwhile, after more than two decades, the search for the real killer of Angela “Mischelle” Lawless is still going on, with suspicions on Mark Abbott and Kevin Williams.

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