- Associated Press - Sunday, August 21, 2016

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - A young Kansas man whose father was gunned down nearly eight years ago in a hotel parking lot is getting a tuition boost from an unusual source as he heads into his freshman year at a Missouri college.

Colby Leeper has been awarded a $1,500 scholarship from a nonprofit organization run by death row inmates, the Joplin Globe (https://bit.ly/2b9STRb ) reported.

The organization, Compassion, decides who gets the awards after reviewing essays the applicants submit. The money is raised through donations and the sale of inmate art.

Leeper already has track-and-field and academic scholarships to attend Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.

Leeper’s dad, Edward “Brian” Leeper Jr., was 33 in November 2008 and had been staying in a second-story room at the Stratford House Inn in Wichita when he came out onto the balcony and then walked down to the parking lot around 11:30 p.m.



A car pulled up and a witness heard five shots ring out.

The driver, Josh Matchett, was later convicted of voluntary manslaughter and is serving a 20-year sentence, Colby Leeper said.

Leeper still remembers his shock when his mother pulled him out of his fifth-grade classroom and told him about his dad. He said he still doesn’t know why Matchett killed his father.

“It was something that happened,” Leeper said. “I don’t really talk about it all that often.”

Leeper’s mother, Hillery Schrag, said at the time of the murder that she and Leeper’s dad had been separated for a couple of years but he would take Colby shopping on occasion.

“They would go to the mall, and each get matching shoes,” Schrag said.

Leeper wrote in his application essay that he understands “what it feels like to be lonely, to yearn for something you cannot have, to be lost and sad.”

“I also know what it is like to overcome,” he added.

He also wrote that he has learned not to hate and that he’s especially empathetic toward Matchett’s children.

Leeper applauded the inmates’ desire to give back.

Leeper has not declared a major, but in his essay he said he wanted to be a teacher and a coach.

“I think he’s still trying to make his dad proud,” Schrag said.

Compassion was created to write and edit a newsletter of the same name, to “develop healing communication” between the inmates and victims’ families. The organization said it has awarded more than $50,000 in scholarships to family members of murder victims since it was formed in 2001.

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Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, https://www.joplinglobe.com

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