Man Killer

Did Patty Prewitt pump two bullets into her husband's head? It is a mystery that has lingered for twenty years.

As she begins telling a story about her family, she motions to the guard in the room and says in her friendly, country accent, "This is funny!"

He can't help but smile. And he's not the only one. Since coming to prison, Patty has won over inmates, guards, supervisors and even a friend of her sister who is now engaged to marry her.

"I always scoffed at prison romances," says Gary Kirkland, a 55-year-old musician who lives in Kansas City. "But it's just not possible that she did this."

Top: Bill and Patty Prewitt with their five children in 
1979. Six years later Patty was convicted of murdering 
Bill in his bed while the kids slept nearby. She is 
serving a life sentence at the state women’s prison in 
Vandalia.
Top: Bill and Patty Prewitt with their five children in 1979. Six years later Patty was convicted of murdering Bill in his bed while the kids slept nearby. She is serving a life sentence at the state women’s prison in Vandalia.
Jennifer Silverberg

Through tenacious letter writing, Patty has solicited the support of a dozen state legislators and even former President Jimmy Carter. In 2000, officials in Governor Mel Carnahan's office indicated they might commute Patty's sentence, making her eligible for parole. But the decision was nixed at the eleventh hour after Bill's sister, the prosecutor and Hughes, the former sheriff's deputy, objected.

Bill Prewitt's family declined to comment for this story.

But Hughes says Patty has everyone fooled. "[Patty Prewitt] is a potentially Academy Award-winning actress and a master manipulator."

Linda Walker, a former prison teacher, doubts it. Patty worked as a clerk for Walker for seven years and helped many women earn their general equivalency diplomas.

"I worked with her shoulder to shoulder and she's just a good woman," says Walker, who believes Patty is innocent. "She has a power, a spirit that is overwhelming."

The deadly saga of Patty and Bill Prewitt still evokes strong emotions in Holden.

"My personal feeling is she was guilty and I hope she stays there," says Sandy Carter as she flips a hamburger during the lunch rush at the Cowboy Inn bar and grill. "She wasn't really upset when it happened."

The town's treasurer, Sharon Manford, says she never believed Patty killed her husband. "I was around her too much," she says. "If she did, she sure got to me."

Kirk Powell, the former newspaper editor who covered the trial, says he's still undecided. "If I would have been on the jury, I wouldn't have voted to convict her. But I knew her. No matter what all the testimony and evidence showed, you still don't think someone you know is capable of that."

Retired Johnson County sheriff's deputy Glenn Hite believes the case should be revisited. Though he thinks Patty may have been involved, he doubts she pulled the trigger. "I think there are some more people who need to be behind bars," he says.

At the Holden newspaper, Pat Zvacek says she vividly remembers the cold and windy morning when she heard that Bill Prewitt had been murdered.

"Bill Prewitt was the kindest, most gentlest man I've ever known," she says. "None of us really knows if Patty did it. Only she knows."

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