The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles denied parole on Wednesday for a convicted Lauderdale County killer, Eric Boyd.
Boyd and his brother killed and robbed Danny Sledge in March of 1999. Boyd and his brother, Nathan Boyd, were convicted of the murder in 2001. The two robbed Sledge at his restaurant and stabbed him more than 23 times. Boyd was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole in 2001.
Danny Sledge's sister and daughter embracing after speaking to the parole board
Sledge's family packed into the hearing room on Wednesday in Montgomery. They took up every seat to ask the board to keep Boyd behind bars. One of Sledge's daughters told the board that Eric Boyd is a dangerous person and he took her father for no reason.
"I'm coming to you begging you not to release Eric Boyd," said Jessica Columbia, Danny Sledge's daughter. "He and his brother left
a void in our life that can never be filled. He took daddy."
Eric Boyd's mother, Beverly, addressed the board saying she needed him to be paroled and out of prison, but couldn't give them any reasons or signs of his rehabilitation. Then, Danny Sledge's daughter, his sister, victims' groups and the attorney general's office all addressed the board about the crime he and his brother committed.
Columbia and her family prepared for this moment to stand before the three-person parole board and give their dad, Danny Sledge, a voice.
"Evil is evil and it takes someone evil to do what Eric did to my daddy," said Columbia. "This is taxing on the family. It's hard on you and just preparing for it mentally is really hard."
The WAAY 31 I-Team investigated the parole board's policies and procedures for almost a year. We uncovered a series of flaws that led to a violent man, Jimmy Spencer, being paroled. Within six months of his release from prison, he was arrested for murdering three people in Guntersville. The governor and attorney general even called the board a broken system when presented with WAAY 31's findings.
Columbia said with all the controversy at the board, she's ready to see the parole law in place and more changes made so victims like herself can worry less.
"We've heard so much over the last five years of people actually getting paroled that shouldn't have been paroled and I was really nervous about it," said Columbia.
Currently, Eddie Cook is still the executive director of the parole board, but he will be replaced September 1st by Judge Charles Graddick, who was appointed by the governor at the beginning of July. Graddick will be the governor's eyes and ears at the board.
Parole Board Chairperson Lyn Head is still in place but the new parole law, which gives the governor more control over the board, will start September 1st. Head's term expired in June of 2018.
We emailed the governor's office on Wednesday asking if Head would be replaced in September when the law goes into effect.
Gov. Ivey's office said, "The Governor has spoken to Lyn Head and told her that decisions are being made and that all options remain on the table."
We asked the board's newly hired public information officer about Graddick taking over September 1st.
"We haven't had any formal meetings with him so we don't really have any information for you," said Matthew Estes, the Alabama Pardon and Parole Board's public information officer.
Right now, it's unclear what new changes Graddick will impose at the parole board, but we know the parole law gives the governor more appointment power at the board, stops early parole considerations for violent offenders and strengthens victim notification.
"I think with the new changes that are coming about, I am feeling a little bit better about it. I was really nervous because some of them aren't in place yet, but I think justice will be served and they will work hard to make sure violent offenders like Eric Boyd are kept in prison," said Columbia.
The Lauderdale County District Attorney's Office also spoke to the board and said Eric Boyd has had some 16 disciplinary actions against him while in prison. Most of those were in the last few years and involved violent acts.
The board set his next hearing for 2024. That's the maximum the board can set a person's next parole hearing after being denied. This is the second time Boyd has been denied parole.
Sledge's family told WAAY 31 after the hearing, they feel relieved knowing they won't have to come to Montgomery and ask to keep a killer in prison for at least another five years.
Nathan Boyd was re-sentenced to life without parole in 2018.