UPDATE: TN woman previously on death row wants parole hearing cancelled
Judith Ann Neelley was convicted in the 1982 kidnapping and murder of 13-year-old Lisa Ann Millican.
UPDATE: A Tennessee woman previously on death row wants her upcoming parole hearing to be cancelled.
Judith Ann Neelley is serving a life sentence in Alabama for the 1982 kidnapping and murder of 13-year-old Lisa Ann Millican.
It means Neelley is giving up her chance to be considered for parole right now. A letter from her attorney says she wants to keep her right to request a hearing in the future.
Family members of Lisa Ann Millican told Channel 3 it's somewhat of a relief, but know they'll have to go through this process again.
"She should've been executed, but she wasn't. So, let her have her hearing, but she needs to go ahead and go through with it. That way she can have a decision and we can get a little bit of closure if we ever get closure," Judy Millican Bradley, the victim's sister said.
It's hard for Bradley to talk about Judith Neelley. For most of Bradley's life, Neelley has been behind bars.
"If she was worried about my family, my mom and them's feelings all this time, why even do it?," Bradley said.
In 1982, Neelley and her husband, Alvin, kidnapped 13-year-old Lisa Ann Millican from a Rome, Georgia shopping center.
She was sexually assaulted, injected with Drano and shot in the head before her body was dumped in Little River Canyon near Fort Payne, Alabama.
Neelley is asking the Alabama Board of Pardons and Parole to cancel her hearing that was supposed to be in three weeks, citing concerns about her victim's family.
"Frankly, she was concerned about the trauma that they would encounter going through this hearing and wanted to spare them from that. She also knew that, I think to be realistic, she was not going to be paroled," Barry Ragsdale, Neelley's attorney said.
In a statement to the board, she wrote "although I am grateful for the opportunity to demonstrate how much God has changed my heart and life over the past 36 years, I know that now is not the right time."
Former Tennessee parole board member Yusuf Hakeem calls the move rare since most prisoners up for parole want the chance to be heard.
"How they've improved, how they want to get out, what they can do once they get out, those type of things. For a person to put it off, sometimes that says that may be they haven't served enough time," Hakeem said.
At one time, Neelley fought for the right to be eligible for parole.
Her victim's family said they won't be able to forgive her.
"I know I won't go to heaven because of it because that's the one thing I could never do. She took my sister. I never got to know her," Bradley said.
It's unclear when Neelley will go before a parole board.
Her attorney told Channel 3 she could request another hearing as soon as a year from now.
Even if Neelley is granted parole in Alabama, she would be taken to a prison in Georgia because she was convicted of kidnapping Janice Chatman in that state.
Chatman was killed just days after the death of Lisa Ann Millican.
A north Georgia family is speaking up about their loved one's killer possibly being granted parole next month.
Judith Ann Neelley from Murfreesboro, Tennessee was convicted in the 1982 kidnapping and murder of 13-year-old Lisa Ann Millican.
Neelley is currently serving a life sentence in Alabama.
Lisa’s family plans on attending the parole board hearing on May 23, in Montgomery. Their goal is to be a voice for her.
What they're finding out is if Neelley is granted parole, she may not be a free woman.
Lisa's family visits her gravestone each year for her birthday. The oldest of five would have been 49 last month.
"This is where my sister will always be, right here. If I want to hug her, I have to come touch her stone because they felt the need to take her away from us,” Tina Millican, the victim’s sister said.
In 1982, then 18-year-old Judith Ann Neelley and her husband, Alvin, kidnapped the 13-year-old from a Rome, Georgia shopping center.
Alvin Neelley later died in prison.
The young teen was sexually assaulted, injected with Drano, and then shot in the head before her body was dumped in Little River Canyon near Fort Payne, Alabama.
Some of Lisa's siblings were too young to remember her.
"I don't have no memories of her. I just hear stories. I get to look at pictures of her. She never got to grow up, never got to fall in love, never even got to finish school. How can anybody consider letting her out?,” Judy Millican Bradley, the victim’s other sister, said.
Next month, the Alabama parole board will consider Neelley's case for the first time.
"I've never thought this day would come, but it has. We all need to stand together and stop this from happening because if she can get out in Alabama, what if she does this to another innocent person or child? Put more families through what my momma, my brother, and everybody's been through,” Bradley said.
The board will hear testimony from each side at the hearing and could last up to an hour.
Two out of three board members must side with Neelley for her to be granted parole.
By being there, Lisa's family hopes parole is denied.
"It's important to me so everybody can hear Lisa's story. Remember Lisa was loved. She still is. She's not forgotten,” Bradley said.
Even if Neelley is granted parole in Alabama, she may still be a long way from freedom.
She would be taken to a prison in Georgia because she was convicted of kidnapping in that state. Chattooga County Sheriff Mark Schrader sent a letter to the Alabama parole board.
Sheriff Schrader said Neelley was sentenced to life for kidnapping Janice Chatman. She was killed just days after the death of Lisa Ann Millican.
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