KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Money and words of support kept flowing into a GoFundMe fundraiser to benefit Kevin Strickland, growing to $1.1 million Friday, according to the fundraiser’s page.

Strickland, 62, was exonerated in a 1978 triple murder that he has always said he did not commit. He was released from the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron this week after a judge granted Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker’s motion to free him.

The Midwest Innocence Project set up the online fundraiser in June saying at the time it was confident Strickland would be released and that he would face “many hurdles adjusting to life” on the outside.

Within 24 hours after his release, the fund raised $318,616, well in excess of its goal of $150,000. But donations kept coming in and by Friday morning, nearly $1.08 million had been raised and a new goal of $1.2 million had been set.

Tricia Rojo Bushnell, executive director at the Midwest Innocence Project, on Wednesday said the response has been overwhelming and showed that people care about justice.

“The state of Missouri isn’t going to pay Kevin Strickland, but you know, strangers from all around the world are,” Rojo Bushnell said.

Under Missouri’s compensation law, only prisoners who prove their innocence through a specific DNA testing statute are eligible for payments.

Exonerees such as Strickland have relied on nonprofits and other people who have been released from prison to help them build back their lives. Strickland, who spent more than 40 years behind bars and suffered the longest wrongful conviction in Missouri history, also will not have a parole officer to help find counseling, housing or work.

Some of the more than 19,000 donors left comments of encouragement and support for Strickland.

“I want Kevin to know that we care about the injustice that has claimed so many precious years of his life,” wrote Charlene Free on the fundraiser page. “I hope that the rest of his life will be filled with freedom, love, friends, joy, and plenty.”

India Nix wrote: “This money in no way makes up for the wrong you suffered for 43 years … but I hope it helps you to start living.”

“Mr. Strickland, my heart goes out to you and the many others wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit,” said Daniel Czecholinski. “I can’t make it right but wanted to do something to help. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas with your family and friends.”

Strickland will turn on the lights for the Mayor’s Christmas Tree on Friday at Crown Center, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas announced Thursday night on Twitter.

“We are honored to have Kevin Strickland turn on the lights for the Mayor’s Christmas Tree,” Lucas said. “God bless him. Please join us to show our love for him.”

The 100-foot-tall Mayor’s Christmas Tree is one of the tallest in the nation and a symbol of the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund, which is dedicated to assisting people of Kansas City during the holiday season.

The Chiefs’ Tyrann Mathieu originally was scheduled to flip the switch on the tree but had to cancel his appearance due to schedule changes.

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