Karen Brown, one of three people imprisoned for the past quarter-century for the stabbing death of Michael Turpin of Lexington, will spend at least five more years behind bars.
The Kentucky Parole Board, deliberating behind closed doors in Frankfort for about 15 minutes Monday, decided to deny Brown parole and take up the matter again in 60 months. The reasons cited were the seriousness of the crime and the fact that a life was taken, said Lisa Lamb, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Corrections. Five members of the nine-member board were present at Monday's meeting.
Don Turpin, Michael Turpin's father, said he was "grateful and extremely disappointed at the same time" about the deferral.
"We've worked awfully hard on this," he said, referring to family and friends of Michael Turpin, who have participated in social networking and a petition drive and have gone before the parole board to beg them not to release Brown or Elizabeth Zehnder Turpin, said to have been the mastermind behind the killing.
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"They just seem to overlook it and have their own agenda," Don Turpin said of the board. "We'll be back with our guns loaded the next time."
Brown; Elizabeth Turpin, who was Michael Turpin's wife and purportedly Brown's lover; and Keith Bouchard received lengthy prison terms in 1986 for Michael Turpin's murder, one of Kentucky's most sensational homicide cases. Turpin's body had numerous stab wounds when it was pulled from a pond at Lexington's Lakeside Golf Course in February 1986. He was 22.
Elizabeth Turpin, who was married to Michael Turpin for less than six months, wanted her husband killed so she could collect $60,000 from insurance policies on his life, prosecutors maintained. Bouchard admitted that he stabbed Michael Turpin and later testified against the two women in a trial that lasted more than a month and drew hundreds of spectators to the Fayette County Courthouse.
Brown and Elizabeth Turpin were sentenced to life, with the possibility of parole after 25 years. Bouchard received a life sentence and has been denied parole twice.
Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson said he had mixed feelings about the parole board's decision.
"On one hand, I'm relieved that they didn't release her. On the other hand, this does nothing but keep the family of Michael Turpin on edge until the next time she's eligible for parole," Larson said.
"If you want to talk about cruel and unusual punishment for the family of a homicide victim, this is it — the parole system," said Larson, who prosecuted the case.
Two members of the parole board, George Carson and Monica Edmonds, both of Louisville, met with Brown, 46, on Wednesday at the Kentucky Correctional Institution in Pewee Valley, where she is housed, but they could not reach a decision about releasing her. So five members of the board met Monday to decide her fate. A sixth, who was not present Monday, submitted his decision the day after Brown was interviewed.
Parole board members Carson and Thomas Whetstone of Louisville and parole board chairman Verman Winburn of Shelby County voted for the 60-month deferral. Board member Shannon Jones of Lexington voted for a 120-month deferral. Edmonds voted for a 36-month deferral. Board member Chuck Massarone of Lexington, who was not present, indicated Thursday that he wanted Brown to serve out her time. According to the parole board's Web site, if the board decides that an inmate should serve out his or her sentence, the inmate is not eligible for a parole hearing in the future.
Parole board members who were not present at Monday's meeting and who did not cast votes were Caroline Mudd of Lebanon, Larry Chandler of Oldham County and Maria A. "Sally" Mooney of Frankfort.
Brown may ask the parole board to reconsider its decision after 21 days have passed since her parole hearing, according to the parole board's Web site. But there are only three conditions under which reconsideration is granted: new evidence, substantial misconduct by a board member or significant procedural errors by a board member.
Elizabeth Turpin, who is at Western Kentucky Correctional Complex in Lyon County, is scheduled for her first parole hearing Feb. 16.
"Since she was the mastermind, we're hoping they'll take a stronger stance on her than they did Karen. But Karen actually participated at the scene," Don Turpin said.
He said a lot of people have sent e-mail messages to the parole board, asking that Elizabeth Turpin not be released. A petition against parole for Brown and Turpin has been signed by more than 4,700 people, and the number of petitioners is growing, he said.
Family and friends of Michael Turpin met with parole board members Jan. 31 to present their case against the release of Brown and Elizabeth Turpin.
Bouchard is scheduled to go before the parole board again in 2018.