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Wednesday, one family in the Shoals said they got a victory when their loved one's killer's original sentence was upheld by a judge, despite a Supreme Court Ruling.
Nathan Boyd and his brother Eric were both convicted of murdering Danny Sledge in 1999. Nathan was 17 at the time and got life without the possibility of parole, but a 2012 Supreme Court ruling stated it's unconstitutional to sentence a juvenile to life without parole. After days of a hearing, a judge ruled that Nathan Boyd will serve life without parole.
Sledge's family's fight for justice isn't over. Eric Boyd was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, and in about six months, he will be eligible for parole.
Sledge's family told WAAY31, they are terrified with the new policies and procedures put in place at the parole board. Many other families have reached out to WAAY 31 saying they have no confidence in this parole board after they paroled a life long criminal who now stands accused of murdering three people in Guntersville.
"I am scared to death after that man just murdered three people in Guntersville," said Danny Sledge's sister, Mary Anne Rippey. "I am scared they are going to let Eric out."
Lawmakers passed the Prison Reform Act, also known as the Justice Reinvestment Act in 2015, which says on the parole board's website that the laws were designed to reduce prison population. The parole board started using an analytical tool to evaluate a parolee's chance of re-offending. The parole board said the analytical tool is merely a guideline. Rippey, who fought against parts of that legislation, said things have completely changed.
"How it was five years ago is totally different. We fought really hard to keep some rights," said Rippey. "They don't take into account the crime and the victims anymore."
Senator Cam Ward, who was the leader on the Prison Reform Act, said the act does not govern who the parole board lets out.
Jimmy Spencer, a man with a violent history, was paroled in January 2018. He walked away from a re-entry facility he was supposed to be at for six months in only three weeks, had multiple run-ins with police and was even arrested on drug charges; yet, he never went back to prison for parole violations. Spencer now stands accused of murdering three people, including a seven year old child.
Rippey tells us the Spencer case and the current laws make the families of victims doubt the ability of the parole board.
"We've lost all voice at the parole board. Used to, we would go down there on a regular basis because when we had a voice. We don't go as often with other families now, because they don't let us speak," said Rippey.
Eric Boyd was sentenced to life with parole. He's served 19 years of his sentence and has a parole consideration date of April 1, 2019. Sledge's daughter says they will fight for the rest of their lives to keep him in prison.
"We will have to deal with his brother the rest of his life and our life. We're willing to do that. We aren't going anywhere. We're gonna fight for justice for daddy for however long it takes."
Even though Danny Sledge's family will have to go to Montgomery to ask the parole board to keep Eric Boyd in prison, they said at least Nathan Boyd will not be eligible for parole.
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