KINSTON, N.C. — Paulette White used to cry herself to sleep after her 6-year-old son, Perry Lynn, was murdered in 1968.
"He was my only child," she said. "So, there's a big hole there you can't fill."
After almost 40 years, the past emotions are flooding back. White recently found out her son's killer, Edward Earl Williams, might soon be released from prison.
Williams, who was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, could be released in 2009 if he satisfactorily completes North Carolina's Mutual Agreement Parole Program.
The program aims to help offenders transition back into society. A Senate amendment passed in 2005 requires the state to enroll at least 20 percent of those eligible in the pre-release program.
If he is released in 2009, Williams will be 58 years old and will have spent 40 years in prison.
According to the state Parole Commission, Williams meets all of the criteria for parole. He had no infractions for 90 days prior to being considered last month; he is already in minimum custody; and he has no criminal charges pending.
According to Perry Lynn's cousin, Jerry Hill, Williams chased the two of them on their bicycles near their Lenoir County home.
"I can remember the clothes he was wearing. I could remember the bike I was on. I can remember the clothes I was wearing," Hill, then 6, said.
When Hill went inside, he said, Williams apparently snatched Perry Lynn from the porch.
Investigators believe Williams then took the child down the street, stabbed him 12 times, slit his throat and threw his body under a house. The only way they found it was because one of the child's tennis shoes was left in the yard.
A year prior to Perry Lynn's murder, in 1967, Williams was convicted in Johnston County of stabbing an 8-year-old girl. His sentence was suspended under the condition that he attend reform school. He did but later escaped. Local authorities said they were never informed about the escape and thus, never looked for him.
Perry Lynn's family believes the law is flawed and has started a petition that currently has more than 100 names of people who want Williams to remain in prison.
"What are they thinking of?" White said. "He killed an 8-year-old girl. He killed my 6-year-old son."
Since being in prison, Williams has had 22 infractions, including crimes against nature, attempted escape and an assault. Yet, under state law, he has been eligible for parole since 1975.
White believe Williams, who dropped out of school in the eighth grade won't be able to function outside prison and that he will be a financial burden to society and also a danger.
"So, what do you think he's going to do when he makes someone mad?" White said. "He's going to go looking for another kid."
In 1999, the General Assembly passed a law called "The Victim's Rights Act," which required local district attorneys to help victims and their families register with the state so they could receive notification of upcoming parole hearings.
But White and her family said they did not know about the parole reviews in their case and found out about it last month from an article published in the "Kinston Free Press."
The North Carolina Department of Correction said the law was not retroactive because it did not have the manpower to research previous cases to find victims and their families. Unless they knew about the registry, they were not notified.
As of February 2007, 26,920 people were registered for notification concerning inmates in prison and 6,698 were registered for notification about offenders on probation or parole.