K.C. Chiefs moved on from tragedy

In Independence, they'll never forget her. But one year later, Konnie vacillates between her love of Perkins and feeling defensive when the world calls Belcher a monster. He was not a monster, VanCompernolle insists. He was a young man with pressures, of keeping his starting job, of a new baby, of a contract year. He drank heavily at times, and was more than twice the legal limit for driving in Missouri the morning he killed Perkins.

Of course there are no excuses for what he did, she said. But for nearly a year, there hasn't been a right way to feel, either.

"It's not fair," Konnie VanCompernolle said. "We lost two great lives. I loved Jovan. He was honestly the nicest guy you'd meet. I don't know … I just hate it. It just makes you so sad. They were so young. There was no need for it.

"I just think he snapped."

Cheryl Shepherd, Belcher's mother, was in the house the morning Perkins died. She heard the gunshots, called 911 and pleaded for Perkins to hang on. Perkins was like a daughter to Shepherd, Konnie VanCompernolle said. Belcher, according to multiple people interviewed for this story, was very close to his mother.

"She was always a rock in his life," said Joe Linta, Belcher's agent. "She was very influential to him. He even revered her quite a bit."

In June, Shepherd went to court seeking custody of Zoey. After a three-day hearing, Jackson (Mo.) County Probate Commissioner Daniel Wheeler granted custody to Perkins' cousin, Sophie, who lives in Pflugerville, Texas.

Mark Roberts, Sophie Perkins' attorney, said Zoey, to his knowledge, is doing well and that his client didn't want to comment.

"She just wants to move on if possible," Roberts said.

Calls to Shepherd weren't returned.

Zoey Perkins, who is now 15 months old, will receive more than $1 million under the NFL's collective bargaining agreement. The Chiefs also started a trust fund to help care for her.


Romeo Crennel, who courageously walked out in the parking lot knowing Belcher had a gun last winter, was fired on New Year's Eve. He moved to New York City, in desperate need of a break, and collects $3.5 million a year for the next two seasons from the Chiefs. People close to Crennel say he is finished with coaching, not just because of what he witnessed that day but because he's 66 and has seen enough.

Rumors swirled that he was doing private consulting work for New England. Wikipedia lists him as a defensive adviser for the Patriots, but Crennel says that post is untrue. He is enjoying time with his grandchildren, enjoying life for the first time in decades.

After a couple of attempts to reach Crennel, he sent a text.

"I've been trying to move on from that incident," Crennel wrote. "It's best as I see it to let Jovan rest in peace. Sorry I'm not able to help you this time. Sincerely, RC."


The year zoomed by fast. Linta, who represented Belcher and Crennel, went from mourning Belcher to signing Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to a six-year, $120.6 million deal, the richest contract in football.

"The highest high and the lowest low of my career occurred within about a couple of months of one another," Linta said.

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