Man sentenced to life for murder set free after conviction overturned; victim’s family heartbroken

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Old wounds and heartache have resurfaced after a man who was sentenced to life in prison for a murder in St. Louis County 25 years ago is set free.

It’s especially tough for the victim’s son. His father was buried on his fourth birthday.

Justin Schuh remembers being at the St. Louis County courthouse and running around during breaks in the courtroom. He doesn’t really remember why he was there.

Schuh was there for the murder trial of his father’s accused killer, Larry Callanan, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

This week, Callanan was released from the state penitentiary in Potosi, Missouri after his conviction was lifted.

“I never got to toss a ball with my dad, no graduations,” Schuh said. “He never got to meet my daughter, my wife. Now, there’s no justice.”

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled Friday that the state concealed evidence favorable to murder Callanan at his 1996 trial.

Johnny Schuh, 24, was an Army veteran who had just finished nursing school, was shot to death on the front porch of a home in Spanish Lake in July 1995. He was attending a house party.

Word spread quickly at the party that “Larry shot Johnny,” said Schuh’s brother, Bill Losing.

Callanan fled in his truck but there was no physical evidence; no gun recovered; no eyewitness to the actual shooting.

Decades later, on appeal, the state supreme court appointed a “special master” to investigate the case.

The investigation found “Mr. Callanan has not shown that he is actually innocent…” but it did find the prosecutor concealed evidence and encouraged a witness to withhold testimony about a second vehicle leaving the scene.

Callanan has always maintained his innocence, blaming the zealous prosecution in part on the reputations of his father and grandfather, both former leaders of the powerful Pipefitters union in St. Louis. His father, Tom Callanan, lost his legs in a car bombing in the early 1970s.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell issued a statement saying the misconduct during the trial remained a barrier to Callanan getting a fair trial, even today. So, Callanan is free with no threat of prosecution for now and no conviction on his record.

“All I could think about was him embracing his mom being able to go home with his mom. The closest I’ll ever get to my dad is standing over his headstone,” Schuh said. “I think I’d rather have someone stab me in the stomach than hear someone who killed my father is out on the street.”

“He’s not getting out convicted of murder. He’s not getting out being convicted of my little brother,” said Bill Losing. “He’s getting out with nothing. He’s getting out like it didn’t happen.”

Callanan’s attorney, Lindsay Runnels of Kansas City, gave Fox 2 the following statement:

“Mr. Larry Callanan has maintained his innocence from the start. He did not kill John Schuh and he does not know who did. If someone claims to have evidence of the identity of the shooter, they should contact the police.

There was no eyewitness to the shooting, no physical evidence, and no motive for the murder of Mr. Schuh. The conviction rested on the false account of a single witness who did not see the shooting. The sole witness who tied Mr. Callanan to the crime admitted during a 2018 hearing that key portions of the testimony she gave at trial were false. Without her coached testimony, there would have been no case against Mr. Callanan. We are grateful that the Missouri Supreme Court recognized the violations of Mr. Callanan’s constitutional rights, leading to his release from prison after nearly twenty-five years.

There are many victims of prosecutorial misconduct and wrongful convictions. The killing of Mr. Schuh was a tragedy, and we hope that his murder is someday solved. Mr. Schuh’s family and loved ones remain in our thoughts.”

Callanan declined our request for an interview, she said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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