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Man accused in 1993 Murder Acquitted, Co-defendant’s testimony not adequate

Man accused in 1993 murder acquitted Co-defendant’s testimony not adequate, defense argued.
JOE LAMBE Staff Writer
PUBLICATION: The Kansas City Star

SECTION: METROPOLITAN

DATE: June 27, 1996

EDITION: METROPOLITAN

Page: C2
A Jackson County jury acquitted a man Wednesday of murdering a Kansas City man three years ago.
Jurors found Michael L. Rolf, 25, not guilty of robbing and killing Joseph Okorie on May 24, 1993.

The key evidence against Rolf was a co-defendant who got a deal, and the defense argued that evidence was not enough.

Two men and a woman robbed Okorie after he and his wife pulled into their driveway at 3111 Elmwood Ave. Okorie refused to give the one-armed man his wallet and ran into his house. The gunman chased him inside and shot him to death in the dark house.

Diana Thompson, a co-defendant, testified that she, Michael Sanders and Rolf did the robbery.

Defense lawyer John Picerno told jurors in closing to remember the deal Thompson got for her testimony – a 10-year sentence.

“He’s guilty of associating with Diana Thompson,” Picerno said. “Guilty of a poor choice in friends. ” He contended that Rolf was not there that night and that Thompson accused him to win a deal for herself and cover up for the real robber.

The only other evidence came from the victim’s wife. Sonya Okorie identified Rolf in a first trial this year that ended in a mistrial.

Okorie told police it was too dark to see the killer, but when she saw Rolf at the first trial, she identified him.

“It was like seeing a ghost,” she testified at both trials.

Assistant Jackson County Prosecutor Bryan Krantz argued in closing that Thompson, “with all her faults,” told the truth about what happened that night.

Her testimony did convict her other co-defendant at trial last year. Michael Sanders is serving a 30-year sentence for murder, robbery and two counts of armed criminal action.