The Obscure Streetwalker Strangler
Gilyard was scrutinized in the serial killings because he was known to cavort with prostitutes, and streetwalkers told cops they were frightened of him. He had agreed to give a blood test in 1987, and cops tailed him at the time but came up with nothing.
As forensic DNA testing became more widespread in the 1990s, Kansas City police did not take a second look at the serial-killing evidence until the federal grant gave them the financial motivation. Police began following Gilyard again, 17 years later, while prosecutors prepared a case. After a five-day tail, detectives arrested him as he ate dinner at Denny's. It likely was his final meal as a free man.
A few days after his arrest, a manacled Gilyardsolidly built, but with graying hair and mustachewas led into a Kansas City courtroom for a brief hearing. The benches in the chamber were lined with relatives of the women he was accused of murdering. Some wept, but most merely stared.
"He didn't look remorseful at all," one victim's sister told the Kansas City Star.
Although Gilyard made a by-rote claim of innocence, he and his attorney plotted a defense strategy focused not on acquittal but on avoiding execution. After negotiations, Jackson County Prosecutor Jim Kanatzar agreed that he would not seek the death penalty. In exchange, Gilyard agreed to a trial without a jury, and he surrendered most of his rights to appeal a guilty verdict.
Kanatzar said he made the agreement to ensure a "quick, just and final disposition."
But he was also under pressure to win a conviction. In the fall of 2006, Judge John O'Malley threw out much of the evidence against Gilyard due to what he called sloppy work by Kansas City police, both in 1987 and after his arrest in 2004.
Yet Kanatzar still had the idiot-proof DNA evidence, and that was the focus of Gilyard's trial in the spring of 2007.