Victim's family says killer's commutation has reopened their wounds - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Victim's family says killer's commutation has reopened their wounds

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Ronnie Hibbard, murder victim Ronnie Hibbard, murder victim
Gabrielle Cecil Gabrielle Cecil
Sue Hibbard & Mary Gerkins Sue Hibbard & Mary Gerkins

By Maira Ansari

LOUISVILLE (WAVE) -- WAVE 3 investigates a controversial move on Ernie Fletcher's last day as governor. He granted clemency, pardons or early parole reviews to women convicted of murder who claim they acted in self defense after abuse. One murder happened right here in Louisville and the victim's family tells WAVE 3's Maira Ansari that their lives have been destroyed once again.

It was June 1, 1991 when 29 year old Ronnie Hibbard was shot to death at point blank range outside the Wal-Mart store on Preston Highway. Gabrielle Cecil was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. But Ernie Fletcher commuted her sentence thinking the shooting was the result of physical abuse.

"I'm don't know how to cope. I don't know what to do. We fought and fought and everyone has found her guilty and nobody bothered to tell us. We read it in the paper and we got a call this morning -- the day she walked out of the prison," said Sue Hibbard, Ronnie's mother.

Hibbard and her daughter, Mary Gerkins, thought that when Cecil was locked up 16 years ago it would be the last time they would have to see her.

"She has never said she was sorry. Never admitted to what she has done," said Gerkins about her brother's killer.

Jo Ann Phillips is with the Kentuckians Voice for Crime Victims. She says the governor's actions are a slap in the face to the victims families.

"You know who is never contacted in these investigations? The victims. We're never even given the opportunity to say 'what a minute, that's not exactly what was proven,'" said Phillips.

The Hibbard's say their lives are now like open wounds and life has once again been turned upside down. All they can do is hold on to the happier moments in their life.

"This picture was taken on his 29th birthday. That was two weeks before she killed him. And that's the last picture we have of him. And to me that picture is Ronnie. He always had a smile on his face. He was just happy go-lucky," Hibbard said. "With Governor Fletcher's signature, he destroyed us and there are just no words to tell."

Phillips also mentioned that many times people convicted of crimes come out of prison and the next thing you know they're right back behind bars for committing the same crime.

Sue Hibbard told us that when she was notified about Cecil's release, she was told by an automated message that she should contact the local police department if she was in fear for her safety.

Online Reporter:  Maira Ansari

Online Producer: Charles Gazaway