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PAINFUL QUESTIONS STILL LINGER FOR SISTER OF STRANGLING VICTIM

SHARE PAINFUL QUESTIONS STILL LINGER FOR SISTER OF STRANGLING VICTIM

Lonnie Jones said if her older sister were alive she'd ask the man who killed her only one question. Why?

Friday afternoon Jones asked the Board of Pardons and Parole that same question about the man who killed her sister and his second chance at parole. Why?Robert Labrum won a successful bid for another parole hearing after taking his case all the way to the state Supreme Court. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the strangulation death of 19-year-old Becky Jones in 1987.

When he was sentenced, the judge recommended he serve 10 years before being considered for parole. Sentencing guidelines said he should serve three years, but the board said they'd keep him in prison the entire 15-year sentence.

Last month the state's top court ruled that Labrum should have another hearing and that this time he had the right to see all the information in his file before his hearing.

Before the ruling, the board members told the inmate what was in the file at the hearing and allowed him to respond. The court-ordered changes in procedure will mean more work for the board's staff and more cost for taxpayers - about $900,000 more each year because every single inmate must see a copy of all information in his or her file before a parole hearing.

Labrum told board member H.L. Haun that he hadn't had the chance to respond to the "volumes and volumes of accusations in his file" until Friday. But Labrum's responses to most of the questions weren't much different than they were seven years ago.

Labrum said he still can't remember what happened that August night when Becky Jones was killed. He said information in his presentence report was incorrect. Haun said that information should have been corrected when he was sentenced, and he still must go through the sentencing court to amend his pre-sentence report.

Jones' family tearfully asked the board to consider their side of the tragedy.

"To most of you and most of the people in this room, Becky was a pretty girl with a pretty smile in a black-and-white photo," JoAnn Jones, Becky's mother, said. "But she was also my firstborn child and she loved life.

"Robert Labrum believes we're here because his rights were violated, because he deserves a second chance," she said. "Robert Labrum is, in fact, here because Becky gave him a second chance."

Lonnie Jones asked the board to consider her sister's feelings the night she was murdered when deciding Labrum's fate. "Feel her fear," Lonnie sobbed. "Feel her terror. Imagine what it must have been like for her, knowing she was going to die."

Haun took the decision under advisement and said he hoped the entire board would be able to meet on the matter as early as Monday morning. Labrum will be notified by mail within 10 days, he said.