ASU philosophy professor Thad Botham leads an average life with one exception: his father has been in prison for 34 years.
More specifically, Botham’s father, Ken Botham, has been imprisoned for more than three decades for the murder of his wife, a neighbor and the neighbor’s two young boys. The most unusual part of the story is that Botham, along with many others, remains firmly convinced that Ken is innocent.
The case has so many facets and has been such a large part of Botham’s, and his brother Thayer’s life, that he had a hard time even describing it. “The case is complicated and messy,” he said, “…people like to talk about it and it makes your head swirl.”
Many people feel the same way. The murders occurred in Grand Junction in 1975 and people still debate the facts. Ken claimed that he was two hours away on an outdoor photography trip when the murders happened, according to court documents. The prosecution theorized that he raced back home to commit the murders and used the trip as an alibi.
It was an unconvincing argument to many. There were also other pieces of evidence that didn’t sit right with some Grand Junction residents. One of those residents was writer Marti Talbott. She was so convinced of Ken’s innocence that she ended up writing Colorado Cold Case, a book about the troublesome aspects of the case.
Talbott knew the book might ruffle some feathers, but she never expected who would read it. “Through a twist of fate after I wrote the book twenty years later,” she said in an email, ”Thayer and Thad Botham discovered a copy of it online and contacted me.”
The Botham sons were impressed with the story; it filled in many gaps in their father’s case that they weren’t aware of. It made such an impact on Thayer that he actually made a website documenting the many aspects of the case. Evidence, trial notes and newspaper clippings were all posted on kenbotham.com for anyone to look over.
Thayer never got the answers he so desperately wanted, though; he died in a motorcycle accident in 2008. Thad has taken over the website and maintains an active interest in his father’s case. He keeps hope alive that his father may one day be freed, but remains realistic about his chances.
One avenue that Botham could take advantage of is the Innocence Project. The project consists of lawyers and others who dedicate themselves to freeing falsely incarcerated people.
Thad’s bleak expectations matched what Innocence Project staff attorney Jason Kreag had to say.
“We get close to three thousand requests a year,” Kreag said. “We end up accepting a very small number of those cases.”
Until that day comes, Thad will continue to maintain his website. People still come to him from time to time asking about the case and offering support. He just wants answers; even if it turns out that his father is guilty.
“I want the evidence to come out, wherever it goes,” he said. “No more secrecy.”
So Thad waits and keeps his ear to the ground. Because he never knows what might appear from out of nowhere.