Police officer's killer being considered for parole
Posted September 9, 2014 7:06 p.m. EDT
Updated November 17, 2014 2:25 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — A man serving a prison sentence for the shooting death of a Clayton police officer 32 years ago could be released within the next two months if North Carolina's parole board deems he's no longer a threat to public safety.
Bobby Earl Smith, 64, was sentenced in 1982 to life in prison with the possibility of parole after he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for fatally shooting William Ray Gilmore Jr.
Gilmore, 24, was shot twice in the head on Jan. 30, 1982, while he and another officer had been responding to a disturbance call.
The North Carolina Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission on Tuesday considered the release of Smith – whose been eligible for parole since 1990 – hearing from Gilmore's mother and other family members who urged the four-member panel not to grant Smith parole.
The commission considers parole for all eligible North Carolina prisoners who were sentenced to life in prison prior to 1994, when sentencing laws changed eliminating parole.
Smith is serving his sentence in Raleigh at Wake County Correctional Center, where he is in minimum custody and able to make supervised short trips outside prison for volunteer work. But he's not eligible for home leaves or work release.
"It something you never get over, losing a child," said Gilmore's mother, Nola Mae Gilmore, who has met numerous times over the year with the parole commission in an effort to keep Smith behind bars. "When you lost one that's been murdered, it's worse."
Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle believes the process further victimizes Gilmore's family.
"I think that it was everyone's belief at that time that he would serve the rest of his natural life in prison," she said Tuesday. "I think it's also a tragedy that the victim's family have to come up here every three years to these parole hearings and ask the commissioners to please not release this man out onto the streets."
Gilmore's family wrote letters to the commissioners asking them not to parole Smith, as did Attorney General Roy Cooper.
Smith's family will also have an opportunity to speak before the parole board before it makes its decision.
Criminal defense attorney Karl Knudsen, who is not affiliated with Smith's case, says commissioners should not be swayed by sympathy.
"There is always going to be pressure on them to say no. But sometimes, the right thing to do is to say yes, even if it's unpopular," Knudsen said. "The decision should be simply this: Is this person ready to be back in society?"
Gilmore says no.
"If this man gets out, he will hurt somebody else," she said. "He had shot two people before he shot our son.>
Smith was convicted in a shooting several years before Ray Gilmore's death and served four years in prison for the earlier crime.
According to a spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, between July 2013 and June 2014, the parole commission granted parole for 36 cases of inmates sentenced prior to 1994.
Eight of those were murder cases.