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Once sentenced to life, Kevin Kyne released on Wednesday from Pinellas jail

Kevin Kyne is joined by his paternal grandmother, Phyllis Karakash, as he leaves the Pinellas County Jail on Wednesday.
Kevin Kyne is joined by his paternal grandmother, Phyllis Karakash, as he leaves the Pinellas County Jail on Wednesday.
Published Feb. 12, 2015

LARGO — After more than four years behind bars, Kevin Kyne walked out of the Pinellas County Jail on Wednesday with the only three things he owns: a plastic bag full of legal papers, a pair of black shoes and his freedom.

"I'm ecstatic, I'm still in shock," Kyne told a group of news reporters outside of the jail, one day after he was found not guilty of murdering his mother. "I mean, I'm sitting here talking (in front of) a bunch of cameras and seeing blue sky. I haven't seen that in a long, long time."

Kyne was accused of killing his mother in 2010 in their Seminole home, and convicted of the crime in 2012. He was sentenced to life in prison. But he won an appeal, which gave him a new trial, and this week he won that too.

He said the past few years have been "horrible."

"I lost my mother and my best friend," he said. "And been accused of this horrible crime, sent to prison for it. The man that actually committed this crime is out there, a free man to this day."

He was referring to his stepfather, William Kyne, who has never been charged with wrongdoing in connection to his wife's death.

Diane Kyne, 49, was strangled or smothered to death in 2010 in the bedroom of the family's Seminole home, and only two other people were home at the time: Kevin and William. Each blames the other for the murder.

Prosecutors said Kevin was the killer, citing evidence such as small amounts of his blood found on his mother's body, even though he said he had not entered the bedroom where she was killed. But his defense attorneys said William actually was the killer.

Now that Kevin is legally innocent, will prosecutors consider going after William Kyne? No, said Assistant State Attorney William Loughery, who prosecuted Kevin in both trials. "We're satisfied that we were prosecuting the right guy."

Bad feelings between the two men have not subsided. "I'm angry at him. I mean, he has taken my life and turned it upside down," Kevin said.

After seeing the jury declare him not guilty Tuesday night, William Kyne said, "He got off for killing my wife but he'll be back for something else. You can mark my words."

A post on William's Facebook page later said:

"Well, Kevin was found not guilty yesterday evening. I don't understand it, I can't believe it and I can't explain it. It is like a nightmare that keeps on going and you can't wake up. I will say this. God has a reason for it and all I can do is trust HIM! To all my family and friends thank you so much for all the prayers and support."

Now that Kevin has learned he will not spend the rest of his life in prison, he has more immediate concerns, like finding a job. Even the black slacks, gray shirt and tie that he wore outside of the jail on Wednesday were borrowed from the Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender's Office. "I have nothing to my name anymore," he said.

He did not have a specific type of job or schooling in mind. Both of his trials featured plenty of testimony about how, at 23, he spent his time at home without any real success holding down a job or getting an education past his GED. Now 27, Kevin said, "I have matured into a man." He also was pleased that by working out nearly every day, he went from 270 pounds to 180, giving him a markedly different appearance in the second trial.

His paternal grandmother has agreed to take him in temporarily, and said she is hoping to stay out of the limelight.

Looking back, Kevin said that when a jury first declared him guilty of second-degree murder in 2012, he was shocked. "I never would have thought that they would come back with a guilty verdict. I believe the jury had earplugs in."

But he said he owes a lot to assistant public defenders Allison Miller and Jessica Manuele, as well as others he has not met who handled his appeal.

"I've always heard from people that they don't like public defenders because they're not going to work for them. I beg to differ. … They were 100 percent on my side."

There was a brief legal battle Wednesday morning as attorneys differed on whether Kevin could or should be held longer, for previously violating probation on felony charges of battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest. But by the end of the day, his prison sentence was up.

Times staff writer Andrew Meacham contributed to this report. Contact Curtis Krueger at ckrueger@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8232.

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