MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – Alabama’s parole board has rejected releasing a woman who pleaded guilty in a 1991 kidnapping in which the victim still hasn’t been found.
The decision came after a brief hearing Tuesday, in which relatives of 52-year-old Karen McPherson sought her release.
McPherson pleaded guilty in 1991 to charges that she helped with the abduction of Carrie Smith Lawson from her home in Jasper, about 40 miles northwest of Birmingham. McPherson’s cousin, Jerry Bland, was considered the main suspect in the case and shot himself to death in his home as police converged outside.
Investigators searching Bland’s property found most of the $300,000 that was paid in ransom by her family, but they never found any trace of Lawson. She was 25 at the time and a recent graduate of the University of Alabama law school.
A judge declared Lawson legally dead two years after her disappearance.
On Tuesday, relatives of the missing woman opposed McPherson’s release, as did the Alabama attorney general’s office.
Lawson’s sister, Margaret Kubiszyn, said she was pleased with the decision. Friends and supporters sent “boxes of letters” to the board urging members to deny parole, she said.
McPherson has claimed she didn’t know what happened to Lawson and has been trying to get of prison since shortly after she received a life term.
Kubiszyn has said McPherson is likely the “last link” to finding out what happened to her sister.
“I don’t think she knows where Carrie is. I think she might know of other people who were involved who could lead us to that,” Kubiszyn said.
Kubiszyn said her family’s fight to keep McPherson in prison isn’t over. She becomes eligible for parole again in 2018.
“We’ll have to do it again in five years,” Kubiszyn said.
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