In Rare AZ Clemency, Woman Who Served 49 Years for Murder Is Freed


After 49 years behind bars, the nation’s longest-serving female inmate is free, says the Arizona Republic. Betty Smithey, 69, whose prison term began after her conviction for the murder of a 15-month-old Phoenix girl in 1963, appeared at a parole hearing yesterday morning and by afternoon walked, with the aid of a cane, out of the gates of a state prison. “It’s wonderful driving down the road and not seeing any barbed wire,” Smithey said.

Members of Arizona’s Board of Executive Clemency agreed that Smithey had proved she is no longer the troubled woman who at age 20 murdered Sandy Gerberick on New Year’s Day 1963, while working as the family’s live-in baby-sitter, or the woman who that same year threatened to kill herself after being sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Board members voted 4-1 to grant an absolute discharge, not only freeing Smithey from prison but also any community supervision. Smithey became eligible for discharge after Gov. Jan Brewer granted her clemency in June, reducing her sentence to 49 years to life. She is only the third such inmate to be granted clemency since 1989.

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