HB33 – Parole for Violent Offenders

House Leadership Statement on House Bill 33

The Virginia House of Delegates today passed legislation that will make certain violent criminals eligible for parole, including 112 offenders who committed premeditated first-degree murder. If signed by the Governor, those who will now have the ability to come before the Virginia Parole Board include rapists and murderers.

The bill was amended by unanimous vote to remove from eligibililty those who committed sex crimes against children. House Republicans offered two additional amendments to prohibit those who committed sex crimes against adults and first degree murder from seeking early release. Both proposed amendments were rejected by House Democrats on party-line votes.

“House Bill 33 will force victims of violent crimes and their families to relive the worst day of their lives over and over again,” said Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle). “And when parole is granted, it will result in violent criminals being released into our communities.”

“This will lead to violent criminals being released early and make our communities less safe,” said Roxann Robinson (R-Chesterfield). “Reforming our criminal justice system should take into account the victims. House Bill 33 is a gut punch to those who thought their living nightmare was behind them.”

Delegate Bell read the following statement from the father of an 8-year old who was murdered by his mother in his sleep. The mother has repeatedly sought parole. That statement is included as prepared for delivery below.

Statement of John Sanders

On November 4, 1991, my 8 year old son was murdered by his mother.  While he was sleeping, she hit him over a dozen times with an axe, then poured gasoline on his bed and set it on fire.   She was convicted of 1st degree murder and arson and sentenced to two life sentences.

Little did I know that 18 years later I would receive a letter stating that she was seeking parole.  After 18 years ALL of the old sick feelings came rushing back! I cannot tell you all of the nightmares I had of even the thought of her walking free! She was denied parole and we asked and were granted that she would not be able to seek parole for maximum allowed 3 years. After that the cycle has repeated itself with the same sick feelings for my family and myself. We have gone through several parole hearing and during each one we are subjected to reliving the events over and over again. I know that after a hearing we have two good years before we will receive another letter from the Correction Office stating that once again she will be seeking parole. The cycle goes on.

Every time she goes for parole she has hope of being freed. For us each time she goes before the parole board we have the fear she will be freed. There has not been a day in the last 24 years that I have not thought about what my son must have gone through in his last moments of life. The parole hearings intensify those feelings by at least 10 fold. So I beg you do not change this law and subject other victims to the torture that these parole hearings have put my family and me through.