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UPDATE: First parole board member declines parole for convicted murderer

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CLEVELAND, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: The parole board member who heard convicted murderer Larry Kelley’s case Thursday morning voted to decline parole to Kelley due to seriousness of the offense.

The case now goes to the six other parole board members who will then review and cast their votes. It would take four concurring votes to grant or deny parole.

During the review process, the seriousness of the offense, time served, victim input and other factors are weighed.

According to Melissa McDonald, the Director of Communications for the Tennessee Board of Parole, the board parole in about 37% of the cases it hears each year.

The final voting process is expected to be completed in 1-2 weeks.

PREVIOUS STORY: A Cleveland woman is trying to cope with reality that her mom's killer may soon be set free. 

Larry Kelley was sentenced to life in prison for the first degree murder of his ex-wife Brenda Wilson outside her church in 1990.

But Kelley has his first parole hearing Thursday morning and its possible he could be out of prison in less than a month.

Wilson's daughter, Raquel, still lives in Cleveland and is still haunted by the mother's murder 24 years ago.  Raquel was 19 years old at the time.

"The last holiday I spent with her was Thanksgiving,” she said.  “I remember exactly what she was wearing Thanksgiving.  It's the simple things like that that you don't forget."

After two-and-a-half years of marriage, Brenda and Larry divorced in May 1990, less than seven months before her murder.  Brenda had an order of protection against Larry and moved to a different residence.

But somehow he found her.

And on December 2, 1990, Larry Kelley violated that order of protection when he shot and killed his ex-wife in the parking lot of the Church of the Harvest in Cleveland.  Forensic evidence showed he fired multiple shots of a Colt .380 semi-automatic handgun to her back. 

"He was a hunter. And he basically hunted my mom down like he was, you know, like he was hunting something,” Raquel said.

A doctor had prescribed him sleeping pills and anti-depressants just two days before the shooting.  But even with that knowledge, the jury found him guilty of first degree murder and began serving a life sentence in December 1991.

According to legal documents, he asked for forgiveness from witnesses immediately after killing Brenda.  But Wilson said to this day, she hasn't heard an explanation or an apology from her mom's killer.

"And he's had 24, almost 24 years to apologize. He's shown no remorse and he's never tried to apologize,” she said. "You know he took a life, not just a life, he took my mom's life, a precious person and he does not deserve to be back out on the streets to live a life."

Wilson and other family members will be at Kelley's initial parole hearing Thursday morning.  The Tennessee Department of Corrections is the agency that determines if someone is eligible to be considered for parole. TDOC then notifies the Tennessee Board of Parole of the eligibility.

According to Melissa McDonald at the Tennessee Board of Parole, the board will consider:

  • The amount of time served
  • The seriousness of the offense
  • Victim impact
  • The offender's disciplinary record while incarcerated
  • Any evidence-based or vocational programs the offender may have completed while incarcerated
  • Letters received (which are placed in the offender's file for the Board's review)
  • Comments for or against the offender's candidacy for parole at the hearing

The Parole Board consists of seven members and he must receive four concurring votes in order to receive parole or deny it.  The Board grants parole to about 37% of all eligible offenders each year, according to McDonald.

Only one Board Member will hear the case Thursday morning to case one vote.  The other members will then get a chance to vote over the next 1-2 weeks.

Kelley is currently being held at the Morgan County Correctional Complex, a maximum-security prison in Wartburg, TN.

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