The man behind the empty amusement park Wild West World in Park City is out of prison today according to the Kansas Department of Corrections.
Cowboy entrepreneur Thomas Etheredge left the Work Release Facility in Wichita this morning, headed straight for New York City. He'll serve out his parole there under the interstate parole system, following the requirements set up by the State of Kansas.
A jury found the Wild West World owner guilty of securities fraud for misleading investors. The amusement park was open for only three months in 2007.
Etheredge blamed the park's failure on bad weather and construction costs. Theme park experts say it was poorly themed and developed with cheap rides.
The Department of Corrections spokesperson says he's not sure why Etheredge chose to go to New York City, but believes he has some family there.
Etheredge served three years of a five year sentence. Under his sentencing agreement, Etheredge will remain on parole in New York for three years and will have to pay restitution to investors, about $575,000.
Many of the people listed as investors in the criminal complaint against Etheredge have moved on. But some remain in the Wichita area.
Pastor Terry Fox was one of the investors. Over the phone he told Eyewitness News, "We've forgiven him." Fox then declined to comment further.
Wayne Eck, whose welding company was still owed money for work done on the park, said he didn't blame Etheredge for what happened. Over the phone he said he thought the bankruptcy lawyers were the problem and that they should have gone to prison, not Etheredge.