Local News

Parole Process Begins for Officer's Killer

Posted August 17, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Theparole processis underway for a woman who killed a Raleigh police officer 20 years ago. For first time, she is speaking out on why she belongs back in society.

On February 3, 1980, Officer D.D. Adams was shot and killed by Cassie Johnson, a woman he had stopped for drunk driving and placed in the back seat of his patrol car.

TheNorth Carolina Parole Commissionis considering setting Johnson free. After spending 20 years behind bars, she awaits parole in a Charlotte halfway house.

In an interview, Johnson says she has changed and would make a positive contribution to society.

"I didn't allow all that time to destroy me. I learned to utilize it, and apply it to my life," Johnson says.

She says she took classes and kicked her drinking habit. If the state sets her free, Johnson says she wants to counsel others not to take the road she took.

"If you can stop something before the fact, that's where my heart is," she says. "I stand today with much remorse in my heart for the victim's family. I have been on my knees many nights, praying that He would remove their pain and somewhere they would forgive me."

Johnson's strong words were not enough to change Sandra Lipshutz's mind. Lipshutz was married to Adams when he was killed.

"He had no opportunity to defend himself," Lipshutz says. "There was nothing to gain by his death. Nothing. He just died."

It is expected to take as long as two weeks for the Parole Commission to decided whether to deny or consider parole for Johnson. If they decide to consider it, they will do an in-depth investigation, which could last up to three months.

Adams' family is not persuaded by Johnson's transformation. They are doing everything they can to keep her from being paroled.

"The law gave her, eventually, life. That's what we want to see. We want to see life," Lipshutz says.

Life in prison does not always mean life.

Statewide, 247 murderers are out on parole or probation. Wake County leads the way with 17, including the most first-degree murder parolees. Cumberland has 13 murderers out on parole or probation.

In each case, public opinion plays a role in whether a murderer is set free.

"They do take that into consideration, because they realize that every decision they make is potentially returning a criminal back into society," says Tracy Little, spokeswoman for theN.C. Department of Correction.

The three commissioners vote independently on each case without discussion. The decision is based on a majority vote.