Local News

Victim relieved by delay to inmate releases

Posted October 29, 2009 7:29 p.m. EDT
Updated November 19, 2009 4:43 p.m. EST

— Tanya Yearwood, of Kinston, was 9 when she was kidnapped and raped by Stephen C. Wilson. She thought the worst was behind her, until she learned Wilson might be released from prison.

Wilson, convicted in 1978 of kidnapping and first-degree rape, lured Yearwood into his car by telling her that her sister wanted to talk to her. He was sentenced to life in prison, but because of a glitch in state law he may be released.

“The man who assaulted me was never supposed to get out,” Yearwood said Thursday.

WRAL News does not normally identify the victims of sexual assaults, but Yearwood wanted to tell her story and requested her name be used.

Wilson and 26 other inmates were scheduled to be released Oct. 29 after state courts agreed with one of the inmates, double murderer Bobby Bowden, that a 1970s law defined a life sentence as 80 years.

The 1981 Fair Sentencing Act included a retroactive provision essentially cutting all those sentences in half, and good behavior and other credits have shortened the sentences to the point that they are now complete.

Gov. Bev Perdue has ordered Department of Correction officials not to release any of the inmates, and DOC spokesman Keith Acree said this week there are no immediate plans to do so.

Last week, Yearwood got a call from the governor's office saying Wilson and the other inmates are staying behind bars for now.

“That was the first night I actually had a good night’s sleep,” Yearwood said.

Yearwood, now 44, testified against Wilson and is fearful that if he is released, he might come after her.

“I'm probably number one on this man's list,” she said.

While the releases are on hold, the state is looking into other ways to keep those inmates in prison. In Wilson's case, that could include the possibility of new charges.

Wilson was accused of assaulting another young girl in the early 1990s while he was out on work release.  He was transferred to a more secure facility but was never charged with an additional crime.

“I know they have people that go for prisoners rights, but has anyone ever thought about the victim's rights?” Yearwood said.

Yearwood is relieved for the moment but worries it won't last.

“I still have to face the reality that there still could be a possible chance that they do get out,” she said.