Why Americans Are Buying Guns: Virginia Accelerates Release of Killers, Rapists, and Kidnappers

Tracy Martin, Kevin Wynn

Halifax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Martin, right, poses with Kevin Wynn at the Halifax County War Memorial. Martin has objected to the geriatric release of Debra Scribner, 66, convicted in 2012 of first-degree murder, conspiracy and a firearms charge in the death of her son-in-law, Eric Wynn, who was the brother of Kevin Wynn. A review by The Associated Press has found during a push to accelerate the review of parole-eligible inmates because of the coronavirus pandemic, Virginia released dozens of violent offenders, including killers, rapists and kidnappers, blindsiding prosecutors and victims’ families who say they were not properly notified as required by law. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

By Sarah Rankin and Denise Lavoie, AP

During a push to accelerate the review of parole-eligible inmates because of the coronavirus pandemic, Virginia released dozens of violent offenders, including killers, rapists and kidnappers, blindsiding prosecutors and victims’ families who say they were not properly notified as required by law, a review by The Associated Press has found.

“I mean, good grief. What, they were never going to tell us and here we are thinking this killer is still in jail?” said Juanita Gillis, who was informed by an AP reporter that the man who fatally shot her brother in 1993 was paroled by the board in March.

Thomas Runyon’s killer, Dwayne Markee Reid, was among at least 35 people convicted in killings who were granted parole in March, according to an Associated Press review of parole board records, court records and interviews with prosecutors. Ninety-five inmates were paroled in March, the most recent month for which decisions are public, just over half the number approved in all of 2019.

Many of those released had served decades in prison.

“The Parole Board, already inclined to grant parole prior to the pandemic, felt that expediting certain cases was appropriate due to age of the offender, underlying health conditions, and the Board was confident that the release was compatible with public safety,” board chair Tonya Chapman, who took over that role in April, wrote in an email.

She said that in normal circumstances there’s usually time for prosecutor notification, “however, these are unprecedented times.”

Brian Moran, Virginia’s secretary of public safety and homeland security, said Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration has full confidence in the board and its ability to decide which offenders have been reformed.

Moran has repeatedly emphasized that only a small number of the approximately 30,000 inmates held in state prisons — about 2,300 — are eligible for parole and that under Virginia’s parole system, the majority of those have been locked up for a long time after committing violent crimes.

Virginia lawmakers abolished discretionary parole in 1995, so most inmates who are eligible either committed their crimes before then or are older than 60 and meet certain conditions making them eligible for geriatric release.

“These are tough cases,” Moran said.

Some prosecutors are outraged about releases in their jurisdictions and have criticized the board for what they say is a lack of transparency and communication. The board is largely exempt from Virginia’s public records law and does not explain its reasoning for granting releases.

“These are the most violent criminals you can get,” said Phil Ferguson, the longtime commonwealth’s attorney in Suffolk, where Reid was charged.

Reid was 16 when he shot Runyon during an attempted drug buy, according to Runyon’s sister and news accounts of his trial, where a prosecutor called the shooting “a killing for fun.” He had already served time in a juvenile correctional facility in connection with a previous killing, according to Ferguson. Attempts to reach him and the attorney who represented him at trial were not successful.

Chapman said the board attempted to notify the Runyon family using a national, online victim notification system called VINE.

“Unfortunately, there was only one anonymous phone number registered in VINE and it was no longer in service,” she wrote in an email.

The board has one part-time employee assigned as the victim services coordinator, and Chapman said that since she took the role of chair April 16, she has used an investigator to help with locating potential victims.

In Halifax County, along the North Carolina border, Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Quackenbush Martin has objected to the geriatric release of Debra Scribner, a 66-year-old convicted in 2011 of first-degree murder, conspiracy and a firearms charge in the death of her son-in-law, Eric Wynn.

Martin said she was not notified of Scribner’s impending release as required by state law and questioned why the board would release someone convicted of such a serious crime who has spent less than 10 years in prison.

“Will people start to think, no matter what a jury says, that they can kill their enemies and be out in five so long as they wait until they are 60?” Martin wrote in an email.

Kevin Wynn, Eric Wynn’s brother, said he also was not notified of the board’s decision.

“I think we were passed over like we were nothing,” he said.

After he learned of Scribner’s release, Wynn found out that the board had sent him a letter — with the wrong address. Wynn said he’s lived in the same home for more than 20 years, well before Scribner’s arrest.

State code says the parole board must “endeavor diligently” to contact the victim before making any decision to release an inmate on discretionary parole, and the definition of a victim in a homicide includes relatives.

Neither Scribner nor her attorney at trial could be reached.

Criminal justice reform advocates have long said the state is too stingy with parole.

Shannon Ellis, an attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center, said it isn’t fair to criticize the release of a prisoner only because of their offense.

“I think you have to ask a lot more questions … including how long that person had served, whether that person under any credible assessment would be considered a danger to the public, to what degree does keeping a person incarcerated during a crisis like this could that be giving them a death sentence?” Ellis said.

But Gillis, Runyon’s sister, said she doesn’t think the now-43-year-old Reid deserves the freedom he’s been granted.

“He killed a human being. Doesn’t that mean anything anymore?” she said.

comments

  1. avatar Ahmed says:

    Voter base in November?

    1. avatar Mike V says:

      But they served their time!

      What bullshit all this is. I expected us to screw this situation up, but they are exceeding that expectation now.

      We keep throwing shit in the stew, when does it become toxic?

    2. avatar Waylon says:

      See I figured much of the ultra libertarians that frequent this site would be full on in support of these measures…

      After all these innocent people were rounded up by the gestapo and placed into these concentration camps, right?

      What, y’all suddenly have a problem with dangerous criminals being released into your neighborhoods around your families? Why is that? Didn’t these poor souls just get bullied by jack booted thugs into modern slavery?

      I thought we could do without prisons, police, and courts? Are you telling me anarchy isn’t a workable thing?

      Fascinating.

      1. avatar Warlocc says:

        Did you struggle in school? Struggle with reading or pronouncing long words? I suspect you might be a little dimwitted.

        There’s a difference between protesting the arrest of someone with an ounce of pot or the wrong grip on their rifle, and wanting serial killers on the streets.

  2. avatar Warwolf says:

    Why are Americans buying more guns?…. BECAUSE WE CAN!🖕

    1. avatar Rad Man says:

      Tool up everyone. And when you think you have enough guns, buy one more.

  3. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

    Because as it is their right,they can.

  4. avatar Dennis says:

    Surprised they’re not giving them our personal information and a weapon when they release em! Probably just haven’t thought of it yet!!!!

  5. avatar jwm says:

    Now miner49er will pop up and tell you about a gop governor that released 5 people at the end of his term.

    Keep buying those guns, America, you’ll need them.

    1. avatar Miner49er says:

      That would be republican ex-governor Mike Bevins of Kentucky, and he released not five but 600, including child killers and rapists.

      1. avatar GS650G says:

        4500 released.in Illinois. Real charmers too.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          It’s only note worthy if the gop does it. Double standards dont’cha know.

        2. avatar Void says:

          Double or nothing

  6. avatar Ralph says:

    Americans are buying guns because they need them. As time goes by, they will need them more.

  7. avatar ColoradoKid says:

    Release criminals, criminals get more guns illegally, commit more crimes…which enforces the need for more gun control. All part of the plan.

  8. avatar I Haz A Question says:

    I’m going to walk in front of the firing squad here and say I’m not cemented in any pro- or anti- stance on this particular case. I mean, it’s been 26 years since the crime. Nobody is the same person after 26 years, including all of us. If this guy had been released after 26 months, then sure I would voice my protest, but a quarter century of loss of freedom is a lot. Not so sure this guy will be a clear and present danger to society at this point.

    Let’s the flaming arrows commence…

    1. avatar Warwolf says:

      You sometimes seem to be a glutton for punishment. Hes an ex con, would you hire him to clean your pool when your woman was home and you were at work? 🤦‍♂️ I certainly wouldn’t.

    2. avatar jwm says:

      Haz. 30 years ago I worked in a state prison for a year. If this guy has spent 26 years in a prison then, yes, he’s changed. And it ain’t for the better.

    3. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      Our opinions are often shaped by our experiences. I’ve met more than one ex-convict who spent a considerable time behind bars in his younger days, and came out of it a better man. Then again, there are all those who don’t, which is why I mentioned I’m not cemented in a position for or against.

      1. avatar Ron says:

        As someone who has vast experience with convicts, I’ll say this. There’s actually a fair percentage that really don’t want to go back to prison and even if they do, it’ll be over something trivial (drug related).

        However… There are very many, who you never ever want to see freedom ever again. There is no rehabilitation for them. They are disgusting and dangerous.

        The point on releasing is, it’s not a decision that’s to be made lightly nor quickly. No pandemic is a justification for a rushed release simply to make bed space.

        And that is exactly what’s happening here.

    4. avatar Rusty - Always Carry - Chains says:

      Haz, you might be right in some cases, but this was not his first time killing someone. So you will likely see him do it again.

    5. avatar anonymous4goodreason says:

      Well, shooting him would have been kinder to both him and society. He’s never going to find a job or be able to support himself and remember, he killed the guy for “fun”. Sociopaths don’t/can’t change.

  9. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    I spoke with a friend a couple of days ago. His daughter, who lives in California, called wanting advice on a handgun. According to Stewart she said, “I’ve had enough of this shit!” He said she intends to unass the AO, but wants to be armed until she can. Stewart is not a modern firearms guy. Even though he owns a few he hunts with primitive weapons even during rifle season. He recommended a S&W hammerless .38 Spl. Which she bought. She was shocked to learn she had to wait ten days to pick it up and forget a CCW. I don’t know the girl, but Stewart said she works in the film industry in Hollywood and is a liberal from Hell. I said, “Tell her; ‘Welcome to the real world, darlin’.’ “

    1. avatar Someone says:

      More like: “Welcome to the world you guys in the left created.”

      1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

        ^^^^

        I like Someone’s take on the matter.

      2. avatar Porridgeweasel says:

        Nice. Very nice.

  10. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    This is what Libertarians Liberals and the Left have been asking for forever. Now they have their wish. Child molesters are free to come and go as they please.

    1. avatar Middle Aged Tactical Mall Ninja says:

      Lots of gun people in the Libertarian camp. Libertarian not the same as liberal.

      1. avatar Ron says:

        Not so much anymore. The modern libertarian movement is more concerned with weed and open borders then anything else. The 2016 libertarian candidates pretty much killed off any real chance it ever had. Revealed themselves as liberal lite.

        1. avatar Chris T in KY says:

          I will never let Libertarians ever forget that they ran an anti civil rights candidate for vice president in 2016.

      2. avatar Chris T in KY says:

        The only thing Libertarians care about is making it legal to shoot up crystal meth in public to improve their sexual experience.

    2. avatar Mark N. says:

      My daughter has been dithering for a couple of years in applying for a CCW in Ohio (shall issue–mostly, but some city chiefs can drag out the process). But now she walks past the home of a convicted rapist on her way to a friend’s house for whom she babysits. She’s now had the training, so I expect she will have it shortly.

      1. avatar Chris T in KY says:

        Every woman who is single needs guns. But don’t tell that to a femnazi. They want women disarmed.

        1. avatar Baldwin says:

          “…single…” has nothing to do with it. Tool up.

      2. avatar Mike V says:

        Hope she’s not waiting on the paperwork, carry dicreetly, but carry.

        1. avatar Mike V says:

          …Discreetly…

    3. avatar possum says:

      Maybe they will come and maybe they will go and maybe their going won’t be what they expected if the Law stays out of it.

  11. avatar Lance says:

    I doubt they’ll show that same leniency towards people that won’t comply with future gun control laws…

    Not obeying the elite is a more heinous crime than murder I suppose.

    1. avatar possum says:

      Not obeying the elite deserves tortured to death, make an example of those whom drift from the path

  12. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    they need to make room for all the unmasked shoppers and offshore paddleboarders.

    1. avatar PMinFl says:

      ^^^^^^^THIS^^^^^

    1. avatar Miner49er says:

      Freedom!

      “A black lawmaker came to Michigan’s capitol with an escort of armed black citizens on Wednesday, days after white protesters with guns staged a volatile protest inside the state house, comparing the Democratic governor’s public health orders to “tyranny”.

      The state representative Sarah Anthony, 36, said she wanted to highlight what she saw as the failure of the Michigan capitol police to provide legislators with adequate security during the protest, which saw demonstrators with rifles standing in the legislative chamber above lawmakers.”

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Miner49er,

        There are so many important lessons in that article. Where to begin?

        First, that article demonstrates how government almost always fails to provide security to any individual.

        Second, that article demonstrates how government almost always fails to provide security even to the “ruling class”.

        Third, that article demonstrates how comforting and effective it is when an individual arranges for his/her own personal security.

        Fourth, that article demonstrates WHY government must NOT interfere with our inalienable right to effective self-defense. Otherwise, this legislator in the ruling class would NOT have been able to arrange effective self-defense for herself.

        Gee, it’s almost like our nation’s Founders/Framers knew what they were doing when they codified our inalienable right to effective self-defense in the United States Constitution, Second Amendment.

  13. avatar GS650G says:

    Perhaps capital punishment could be delivered to a few eventually.

  14. avatar strych9 says:

    Maybe I’m just jaded as fuck but I look at most of this the way Carlin suggested: entertainment.

    1. avatar GS650G says:

      Gates. Open for 60 seconds once a month.

      Televise it. Budweiser would jump on this in an instant.

      One of my favorite Carlin routines.

  15. avatar former water walker says:

    My Illinois town south of Chiraq is going to he!! as I type. Reports of gunfire nearly EVERY DAY. And it started before the a-holes decided to turn Cook County jail inmates loose…Virginia sounds a lot like ILL. I hate the way my previously nice burb turned into a ghetto.

  16. avatar CentralVirginian says:

    Its terrible that we’ve gotten to the point where the lives of murders, rapists, and kidnappers mean more than the people they victimized.

    1. avatar GS650G says:

      Not to me they don’t. Convicted scumbags belong in jail or hell, or both.

  17. avatar Wayne says:

    Simple, release the real criminals and make room for law abiding gun owners. Nuff said…

  18. avatar enuf says:

    I don’t do panic. I buy guns and ammo because I like guns and ammo.

    Very simple formula that. One that no news of the moment has any impact on.

  19. avatar Specialist38 says:

    And yet, states keep electing this left-wing, elitist pieces-of- shit.

    Boggles the mind. But then, I have one.

  20. avatar Nickel Plated says:

    Inb4
    Trump is in the gun lobby’s pocket aand flooding America with guns, and now oh look the crime rate is going up. It’s all Trump’s fault.

    1. avatar Justcant says:

      You mean after all the DAs and governors kicked as many prisoners to the curb? Keep trying, you might get it right one day!

  21. avatar possum says:

    If the rapist need a place to stay they can come and hang in my tree. Because I’m a nice guy like that.

  22. avatar MIpatriot says:

    The politicians and judges who release these offenders should be culpable and charged with the same crimes if these criminals re-offend.

  23. avatar Larry in Oregon says:

    I always felt punishments for crimes committed were weak. Saw a show the other day about this lady that was stabbed and died, after years they finally found her killer using DNA and turns out he was already in prison serving a life sentence for some other crime so they tacked on another like sentence. I don’t know how anyone would consider that justice.

  24. avatar George says:

    Releasing inmates at a time when NO FREAKING JOBS are available for them even if they indeed are rehabilitated – yeah, that’s gonna work .

  25. avatar Tommy357 says:

    “Brian Moran, Virginia’s secretary of public safety and homeland security, said Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration has full confidence in the board and its ability to decide which offenders have been reformed.”

    In the meantime, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US. Dept. of Justice, “An estimated 68% of released prisoners were arrested within 3 years, 79% within 6 years, and 83% within
    9 years.”

    So the brilliant Ralph Northam, who is a democrat and therefore bases all of his decisions on sound science and facts, dammit, facts, has concluded that disarming citizens and allowing accelerated release of felons, is just the logical thing to do in order to protect the populace of Virginia.

    Yes, America. Buy guns. Buy LOTS of ammo. Get training. Carry everyday, everywhere. We own our own safety.

    And never, ever, vote for a gun grabbing, Bloomberg-tit-sucking, democrat.

  26. avatar onestab says:

    But I hear the Guv does a mean moonwalk.

  27. avatar Alan says:

    Virginia has an elected governor and state legislature, right? What might the voters say today? Could it be that runaway gun purchases, if that really is the case, are truly an expression of voters sentiments

    1. avatar Tommy357 says:

      Two special elections: CA and WI. Both went R this week.

  28. avatar sparkyinWI says:

    There is nothing unprecedented about these times. We have had viruses, pandemics, etc. before and will again. In 1957 we had a major influenza pandemic. In 1968 they called the pandemic the Hong Kong flu.

    Anyway, there is no excuse to not follow the stated law if that is the case in Virginia and do the proper prosecutor and victim notifications. If the parole releases are within the confines and standards of the law, that same law also included it seems the requirement of notification. So those who failed to follow that law should now be held accountable.

  29. avatar johnny99 says:

    Is this VA official named Brian Moran the same Democrat campaign operative who was caught in a massive vote fraud scheme and fired from his job, then ended up w/another plum gov’t job because of his relationship to disgraced Democrat wife-beating Congressman Jim Moran?

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