WRAL Investigates

More convicted murderers being paroled in N.C.

Posted March 19, 2009

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— At a time in her life when many of her peers are enjoying their grandchildren, Paulette White says she can think only about her son.

It was 1968, when Edward Earl Williams stabbed 6-year-old Perry Lynn White 12 times, slit his throat and threw his body under a house.

White says Williams did more than kill her son.

WRAL Investigates More convicted murderers being paroled in N.C.

"It gets easier as time goes on, but when somebody kills your child, it kills a part of you," she said.

Williams was convicted Oct. 24, 1968, of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. At the time, state law allowed the possibility of parole.

Now 58, Williams is scheduled to be released from prison Monday.

"I could see it if it was a lesser crime, but for a murderer?" said White, who has been fighting Williams' parole for years. She was notified by letter last month that Williams had been granted parole.

Since 2005, more and more families have found themselves in the same situation.

That year, the number of people paroled after serving time for first-degree murder more than tripled from the average of the previous 10 years, rising from 5.7 to 21.

In 2007, the number increased to its highest, 27. And in 2008, 24 people convicted of first-degree murder were granted parole.

Eric Evenson, a former Durham prosecutor, believes state lawmakers are using parole as a way to deal with prison overcrowding.

He has gone before the North Carolina Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission several times, trying to keep people he prosecuted in prison.

"It appears that – from what we've understood from the parole commission – that they are being told to re-examine many of these cases," Evenson said.

Most recently, he asked the commission to deny parole for Barbara Stager, a Durham woman convicted nearly 20 years ago in her husband's fatal shooting. The commission is expected to decide on her case in May.

"The parole commission is under pressure from the North Carolina Legislature to parole people like this," Evenson said. "And it's time that we, I think, re-examine what is happening in our court system and our prison system."

As a general rule, the parole commission, a panel of three appointed by the governor, does not talk to the media. It declined to answer questions from WRAL News about why more convicted murderers have been paroled in recent years.

One administrator, however, did say that each case is reviewed on an individual basis and not by crime category.

"When you look at a murder, you have to look at it case by case," said Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, who has worked with parole issues for years, co-chairing the Senate Appropriations on Justice and Public Safety Committee.

A state Senate amendment passed in 2005 requires the state to enroll at least 20 percent of eligible inmates in a pre-release program called the Mutual Agreement Parole Program. It guarantees an offender will get out on parole if he or she satisfactorily completes the program.

"What we hope is the person who is coming out of prison is not the same person who went into prison," Kinnaird said.

The primary reason for the program is to rehabilitate offenders, Kinnaird says, but it does also helps control the prison population. But she says lawmakers are not encouraging the parole commission to let out more murderers, however.

The Department of Correction, which is separate from the parole commission, believes the increase in murderers being paroled is because the number of eligible offenders is dwindling.

Only people serving life sentences who committed crimes before 1994 qualify for parole – in that year, the state enacted structured sentencing that no longer allows parole for offenders serving life in prison, regardless of the crime.

"That's the pool of people that the parole commissioner has to work with," Keith Acree, DOC's director of public affairs, said. "It's by and large a pool of murderers and rapists that they are considering for parole, so the numbers are going to result in mostly those types of people being paroled."

White says she doesn't care about any of those arguments. She's experiencing a fear she hasn't felt in more than 40 years.

"I think he's going to do it (kill) again," she said. "I think he's going to go and do it again."

All she can do now is pray that doesn't happen, she says.


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  • Raptor06 Mar 20, 2009

    The legislature needs to expand the rights of individuals to use available options of self-defense. Murders will commit crimes again since they've already had the taste of "blood."

  • UNCSteve Mar 20, 2009

    St. Ives, the rules in NC sentencing have been changed. There is no longer parole in the state of NC. However, this man was sentenced pre-structured sentencing, so he is eligible for parole. Now, I certainly don't agree with him being granted parole, but you can't deny a parole hearing b/c of our new system if the person was sentenced pre-structured sentencing. Laws like this are not applied retroactively.

  • eternalrage83 Mar 20, 2009

    I have a better solution to the over crowding in prisons. Once all the beds are full in a prison you just go cell block to cell block and shoot those that are there for 1st degree murder until you have enough beds for the newcomers.

    Heck make a game out of it, start with the most senior inmate and work your way down. And do it in the cell blocks to give the remaining that little bit of fear for their lives.

  • ohmygosh Mar 20, 2009

    Those who think "life without parole" is a satisfactory subsititue for the death penalty ought to think again. There will always be these backdoor ways for murderers to get out.

  • Ouaouaron Mar 20, 2009

    Thanks to all of you who voted that straight "D" ticket last November because Bush made you feel bad. We've now got a governor who skipped the last debates because she (a) knew she could win anyway what with all the sheeple bleating about "hope" and "change" and (b) if she had shown up, she would've been embarrassed even more than she was at the last one she attended. But she's "for the children" so everything's alright. Ya know - I've seen this slippery slope before, and I'm not feeling too good about seeing it again.

    And something tells me that, if they'd release all the people in the can for pot possession first, we'd have plenty of room for the really dangerous ones who prey on others.

  • aintbackingdwn Mar 20, 2009

    I don't see why we even bother to jail anyone for crime anymore. We waste all this money for probation officers and crooked judges just to turn them loose. Lets save the money and not even bother.

  • turdferguson Mar 20, 2009

    Looks like our NC justice system just keeps making headlines for the wrong reasons. In the wake of all the criticism they've endured lately you'd think they would take a more conservative approach. Guess they just don't care.

  • HARLEY MAN Mar 20, 2009


  • arfamr1005 Mar 20, 2009

    thats what happens when you keep electing LIBERALS in this state..."reform and release"....my philosophy is "bury and burn"

  • artist Mar 20, 2009

    "A state Senate amendment passed in 2005 requires the state to enroll at least 20 percent of eligible inmates in a pre-release program called the Mutual Agreement Parole Program. It guarantees an offender will get out on parole if he or she satisfactorily completes the program."

    I.... ugh..... I'm nearly speechless. The stupidity of programs like this.... and they include murderers now?