They were the worst of the worst, said Missouri and Illinois judges and prosecutors. Child killers, rapists, armed robbers, and murderers who showed no remorse and who refused to admit guilt, were sentenced to prison terms of double their lifetimes or more – often in the hope they would die in prison, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Some, including those once labeled cold-blooded “monsters” and “demons” in court, have been quietly released after doing only a small fraction of their time – in some cases, under 20 percent of their sentences. At least 189 murderers and 40 people convicted of sexual assault, rape, or sodomy in Missouri are among roughly 400 of the state’s inmates originally sentenced to at least 25 years in prison and paroled in the past 10 years. One served 36 years, one 34 and one 31. No one else among them served more than 30, including some sentenced to more than 100 years in prison and those sentenced to multiple consecutive life terms.
Some critics of parole for violent offenders say concern over space in Missouri’s prisons and recent tightening of sentencing laws may be pressuring parole board members to release more of these men and women. Illinois has paroled or released several thousand of the same type of prisoners since 1996. Most of those served 40 to 50 percent of their sentences. In 1978, St. Louis Circuit Judge Daniel Tillman sentenced Searl Lee Dunn to 150 years in prison for beating a 2-year-old boy to death. Dunn was released Oct. 27, after 28 years, or about 19 percent of his original sentence. Dunn is now facing three sex charges after a girl, 11, told police in March that Dunn fondled her, exposed himself and masturbated. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said her predecessor asked the Board of Probation and Parole to have Dunn serve the full 150 years, or as much as possible. She said: “I think 150 should earn you more than 28.”