No Parole For At Least 12 More Years For Convicted Murderer
By Maureen Kyle
(FRANKFORT, Ky.) -- Donovan Harris, the man convicted of murdering his girlfriend in the parking lot of Mall St. Matthews as she left work 12 years ago, will remain in prison for at least another 12 years. A 3-member parole board panel heard his request for early release last week, but decided the entire group should make the decision. WAVE 3's Maureen Kyle was there.
In 1994, Harris was convicted of shooting Mary Byron seven times on her 21st birthday as she left her job as a hairdresser at J.C. Penney on Dec. 6th, 1993; at the time, Harris was out on bail for raping her at gunpoint three weeks earlier. Neither Byron nor her family knew he had been released from county jail.
Harris was sentenced to life in prison for Byron's murder, but became eligible for parole after serving 12 years.
On Monday, the full 6-member parole board decided to defer Harris' parole request for another 12 years.
One parole board member said it was clear that Harris was too dangerous to let back into society.
James Provence with the Kentucky State Parole Board said Byron "presented himself extremely well to the parole board as you saw during the interview, but we felt that the seriousness of the crime, the violence and the life-taking overrode any performance he might have had in the institution."
Harris, 35, who is serving his sentence at the Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange, completed a program for sex offenders and has been described as a model prisoner during his incarceration.
Byron's murder inspired her family to create an automated system for notifying victims of violent crimes when their attackers are released from jail.
Participants who sign up for VINE are notified by telephone when a suspect is released from jail. VINE, headquartered in Louisville, is now active in 40 states. Family members believe Mary Byron might still be alive if such a system had existed when Harris was released.
The family released the following statement after the parole board's decision:
"Our family and friends are relieved that we can rest for another 12 years without worrying about the release of the man who brutally planned and committed the murder of our beloved Mary. We thank the Kentucky Parole Board for listening to our fear and concern and for keeping him safely locked up where he cannot inflict additional pain and suffering on us or on any other innocent member of our community.
"We are, however, disappointed that the Kentucky Parole Board did not vote to have Donovan serve out the remainder of his life sentence. The members of the jury that convicted Harris in 1994 heard all the facts in the case, and stated that they would have sentenced him to life without parole if the law at that time had permitted it. Our family had hoped that, with the change in the Kentucky statute, the parole board would have complied with their -- and our -- wishes."
The parole board could have ordered Harris to serve out his entire sentence or deferred his request to a future date. Harris will be up for parole again in 2017.
After the parole board's decision, Harris released a handwritten letter to Mary Byron's family. In it he says he respects the parole board's decision to defer his next parole request for 12 years. He also apologized to the entire Byron family, saying how deeply sorry he is for taking Mary's life.
Mary's mother, Pat Byron, says she has "let go of all the anger, because that only ruins my life. It's on his shoulders now."
Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
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