Mystery deepens surrounding deaths of three Kansas City Chiefs fans
‘America’s Most Wanted’ host John Walsh discusses the expected toxicology report and a new video surfacing of friend who hosted watch party in cuffs on ‘The Story with Martha MacCallum.’
Kansas City Chiefs watch party host Jordan Willis checked himself into rehab soon after his three friends were found dead in his backyard, a source close to the family said – the move could be an attempt to “get out ahead” of potential criminal charges in their deaths or mitigate resulting sentencing, experts told Fox News Digital.
The bodies of Ricky Johnson, 38, Clayton McGeeney, 36, and David Harrington, 37, were discovered in Willis’ backyard by the Kansas City Police Department on Jan. 9, two days after they were last seen at a watch party inside the house.
Video shows responding police detaining a boxer-clad Willis on his front doorstep that evening as they questioned him and searched his home – but the department has said the men’s deaths are “100 percent not being investigated as homicides.” Willis and Alex Weamer-Lee, another man who was at the house during the Chiefs game, have not been accused of any wrongdoing by police.
Meanwhile, family members of the three decedents met Wednesday with the Platte County prosecutor, who would oversee any potential criminal charges in the case, FOX4 Kansas City reported.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS FANS: JORDAN WILLIS CHECKS INTO REHAB AS FAMILIES AWAIT TOXICOLOGY RESULTS
David Harrington, Clayton McGeeney and Ricky Johnson were found dead outside their friend’s Kansas City home on Jan. 9, 2024. (Ricky Johnson/Facebook)
“I want to see what action is being taken, and that’s most important – what action is being taken,” McGeeney’s cousin, Caleb McGeeney, told FOX4 Kansas City.
Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd told the outlet that, at this time, their office is still waiting on the Kansas City Police Department to conclude their portion of this investigation.
After speaking with the Platte County prosecutor’s office previously, Harrington’s father told Fox News Digital that he “would expect that they will treat this as a drug overdose and go on with their business.”
“I think that’s going to be the defense of the case – that they bought the drugs through a fourth party and three people died, and he happened to live.”
“But I don’t think it’s as simple as that,” he said last week. “I’m aware that they may have done some substances that were questionable – but the idea was to get high, not dead … If they were supposed to be friends, why didn’t [Willis] come find them. I’m sure they have a hundred different answers to that, but that’s my question.”
A source close to Willis’ family told Fox News Digital on Wednesday that the death of the 38-year-old HIV scientist’s friends was an “enormous, heartbreaking wake-up call,” and that he checked into an inpatient facility to “face his addiction head-on” after moving his belongings into storage and vacating the house where they died.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS FANS FOUND DEAD IN FRIEND’S BACKYARD: WHAT TO KNOW
But attorney and retired NYPD inspector Paul Mauro told Fox News Digital that the announcement could be an attempt to garner “sympathy in the court of the public opinion” – or even a preemptive move to get a shorter sentence if he is charged with a crime.
“I think they’re trying to play on people’s sympathies that he had a drug problem,” Mauro said. “It verifies what a lot of us speculated on: maybe a drug they didn’t know was in there.”
Previously, experts weighed in on the men’s mysterious deaths, speculating that fentanyl or another drug that causes disorientation could have led the men into freezing temperatures to pass out and die of hypothermia.
“I think they’re trying to play on people’s sympathies that he had a drug problem.”
Neama Rahmani, a Los Angeles-based attorney and former federal prosecutor, told Fox News Digital that a stint in a rehabilitation facility could be used to reduce a potential sentence if Willis or Weamer-Lee face charges in the men’s deaths.
“It’s evidence mitigation – someone is trying to turn his life around, and judges and prosecutors take that into account,” Rahmani said on Thursday. “You can convince the judge to sentence on the low end of the range or convince the prosecutor to not charge the most serious offense.”
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS FANS’ DEATHS: DRUGS, FREEZING WEATHER COULD HAVE CREATED LETHAL CONDITIONS, EXPERTS SAY
HIV scientist Jordan Willis, 38, checked himself into a rehab facility after his three friends were found dead in his backyard on Jan. 9. (GitHub)
“What I expect them to say, as far as the defense, is that [Willis], too, was a victim, that he too was drugged – but he survived,” Rahmani said. “I think that’s going to be the defense of the case – that they bought the drugs through a fourth party and three people died, and he happened to live.”
Rahmani said that a stint in rehab would do nothing to prevent charges from being filed and prosecuted should evidence implicating Willis or Weamer-Lee in the men’s deaths be discovered. Likewise, he said, a judge would not be swayed if someone sold or procured drugs without knowing that they contained a deadly amount of fentanyl.
“If you take drugs, you are legally responsible for your actions – voluntary drug use is not a legal defense,” Rahmani said. “Only involuntary drug use – when you are drugged – is a viable defense.”
In Missouri, according to criminal defense attorney and former Platte County prosecutor Daniel Miller, any death that results from the commission of a felony can lead to a felony murder charge.
VIDEO SHOWS KANSAS CITY CHIEFS WATCH PARTY HOST HANDCUFFED AFTER FRIENDS’ BODIES FOUND
An exterior view of the backyard and porch of Jordan Willis’s home in Kansas City, Missouri on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. The bodies of Willis’ three friends – Ricky Johnson, Clayton McGeeney, and David Harrington – were found in Willis’ backyard, with one body found on the porch, on Jan. 9, 2024, two days after attending a Kansas City Chiefs watch party at the home. (DWS for Fox News Digital)
“But you have to have evidence of the drug and who had it and who took it before you get felony murder,” Miller said on Thursday. “If they can get evidence that he comitted a felony drug sale there and these men died as a result of that drug sale, felony murder is possible – not guaranteed.”
Time in rehab would not help Willis evade criminal charges, should sufficient evidence be found, he said.
“When you have three dead victims, and they’re saying that you’re criminally liable for them, I don’t know what kind of mitigation there could be,” Miller said. “Whether you say ‘we ingested a bunch of dope, a bunch of drugs, [or] we played with a bunch of snakes,’ whatever. If they make you criminally liable, I don’t know of anything that’s going to mitigate that – you’re going to get maxed out [in sentencing].”
Miller said that if Willis or Weamer-Lee were his clients, he would not be speaking with the press. While Lee’s attorney Andrew Talge has declined to comment publicly since an initial interview with FOX4 Kansas City, Willis’ attorney John Picerno has been scrutinized for what family members say is a shifting story of his client’s actions between Jan. 7 and Jan. 9.
“There is a strategy – they think they’re getting out ahead of this.”
Moreover, Miller said, he would be “reluctant” to send Willis to rehab:
“When you go into rehab, you can start making admissions about criminal behavior,” Miller said. “Almost everything is physician-patient [privilege], but there are exceptions for everything… I certainly would make sure that the Fox News reporter didn’t know he was in for rehab.”
“If he’s shaking and the snot’s running down his nose and he says he needs it, I’d send him to the remote mountains of Washington State for rehab where it’s just him and Sasquatch,” Miller said. “I’d probably tell him to stay there.”
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“There is a strategy – they think they’re getting out ahead of this,” Miller said of Willis’ defense. “They can think it all they want, but I don’t care where they send him – if they prove him criminally liable for his three friends overdosing and freezing to death in his backyard with their bodies laying out there for 48 hours, [he’s] not going to get very far having that help [his] sentence.”
Christina Coulter is a U.S. and World reporter for Fox News Digital. Email story tips to [email protected].