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Parents of Fallen Officer Fight Killer's Parole

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Clayton Police Officer Ray Gilmore
CLAYTON — Many people fight year after year to keep convicted criminals from getting out of prison. A family in Clayton lost their son, who was a police officer, in 1982. Every year they relive their pain when his killer comes up for parole.

Under North Carolina's Fair Sentencing Law, people who received life sentences between 1981 and 1994, can be paroled. A state victims' advocate helps families through the ordeal, but nothing can take away their pain.

Ray Gilmore continues to be a constant presence in his parents' home. Almost 20 years ago, the Clayton police officer was killed in the line of duty.

Bobby Earl Smith went to jail for the crime, but Smith is up for parole this month. Gilmore's parents fight the killer's release every fall.

"We start praying a few weeks ahead of time," says the late officer's father, William Gilmore.

The Gilmores say going through the parole process year after year is like reliving the murder.

"It's like you have an anger inside of you that you don't know how to express about what happened," the victim's mother, Nola Mae Gilmore, says. "It takes time to get where you can handle that."

Karen Taylor George is a victim advocate with theN.C. Department of Correction. She helps walk families through the parole process.

"The review that's required every year by law opens emotional wounds for these survivors," she says. "We're trying to reduce as much of the impact as possible for the survivors."

Help in any form is a comfort to families like the Gilmores. But Nola Gilmore says the biggest reason they persevere is to keep their community safe.

"If we didn't do something, he would be put back on the street, and he would cause heartache to other people," she says.

North Carolina allows families who cannot make the trip to the N.C. Parole Commission in Raleigh to state their case via video conferencing.

Every family is assigned a victim specialist to help them through the process. They are among the first people to be notified when the commission makes a decision.


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