KILGORE, Texas (KETK) – A man who was one of two people convicted of capital murder in the deaths of five people for the 1983 Kilgore KFC killings has died in prison, records show.

Darnell Hartsfield and his cousin Romeo Pinkerton were convicted of abducting the victims from a restaurant on Sept. 23, 1983, driving them to a remote oil field in Rusk County and shooting them to death.

According to a report, Hartsfield died of a massive hemorrhagic stroke while serving his life sentence, and it “could not be determined” whether his death was caused by a pre-existing condition or a condition developed after his imprisonment.

Hartsfield died on May 4, 2022 while with medical staff, the report said.

Pinkerton and Hartsfield were convicted of five counts of capital murder in 2007, but when Pinkerton spoke with KETK in 2019, he maintained that they were innocent and DNA evidence placing them at the KFC was staged.

Photo of the outside of Kilgore's KFC in 1983.
Screenshot from KETK’s archives of Kilgore’s KFC in 1983.

“I’m doing free time for somebody else,” Pinkerton said at the time. “I’m saving a rich man from the death penalty.”

However, investigators said they were confident they had arrested the right people, and that they did not stage the crime scene.

Hartsfield was 61 at the time of his death, and Pinkerton has been denied parole twice since his conviction.

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