FRANKFORT — Friends, family, former colleagues and current law enforcement officers asked members of the Kentucky parole board on Monday not to release from prison the man who killed Fayette County Deputy Sheriff Joseph Angelucci.
William Bennett, 56, who was sentenced to up to 120 years in prison for the 1988 killing of Angelucci, is being considered for early parole because he is ill.
Bennett's sister, Carnetta Davis of Lexington, said earlier this month that her brother has been gravely ill since August. According to the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, Bennett's medical condition meets statutory requirements for an early medical-parole hearing, which is scheduled for Dec. 5.
No decision was made at Monday's meeting; the seven parole-board members who were present just listened as people who knew Angelucci expressed their opinions about the possibility of Bennett's release.
Parole-board member Caroline Mudd said that this was a difficult case, but that the board was asked by the Kentucky Department of Corrections to consider a medical-parole hearing for Bennett. Mudd apologized but said that it's what the law requires.
Former Fayette Circuit Judge Armand Angelucci, his wife, Joyce Angelucci, and son Armand Angelucci Jr. all shared their thoughts with the board.
Armand Angelucci, 91, Joseph Angelucci's father, raised questions about Bennett's medical condition.
"Who in the world knows what terminally ill means?" he asked.
"What about the Lockerbie bomber over there in Scotland?" he asked, referring to Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, who was convicted in 2001 in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, then was released from prison in 2009 after doctors estimated that he had three months to live. Megrahi appeared at a rally in July in support of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's ousted government.
"Who's to decide whether he's terminally ill?" Angelucci asked.
Angelucci said he wasn't going to beg the parole board. He just asked that the board do what it had done in 2000 and 2006: deny parole for Bennett.
Bennett is not scheduled to go before the parole board again until 2016.
"Suppose he gets well. Suppose he lives another 10 or 12 years. And just suppose he kills again," Angelucci said. "The man had every right a defendant in a criminal case is entitled to have."
Angelucci said it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that the jury that convicted Bennett wanted him to die in prison.
Bennett, who has been described as mildly mentally retarded and paranoid schizophrenic, shot Joseph Angelucci, 24, on Nov. 4, 1988, as Angelucci attempted to take him to a mental health treatment center. Bennett grabbed Angelucci's gun and pulled the trigger. Angelucci died about three weeks later.
Initially, Bennett was found incompetent to stand trial. But a judge ordered him to undergo a second competency test, which he passed.
At Bennett's trial in 1989, witnesses testified that he was delusional, sometimes thinking he was a nuclear scientist or Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's twin.
Bennett began having mental problems after he found the bludgeoned body of his mother when he was 10, according to relatives. Bennett's mother was killed by a boyfriend, they said.
The jury found Bennett guilty of murder but mentally ill, and it recommended that he receive an indeterminate sentence of no longer than 120 years.
Mudd said a parole-board member will visit Bennett before next week's hearing.
The board will not have access to Bennett's medical records; it can only take the word of Bennett's doctor, who works for the Department of Corrections.
Jennifer Brislin, director of communications for the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, said earlier this month that if the parole board decides to release Bennett, the corrections department would work to find an appropriate placement for him. If appropriate placement can't be found, Bennett will remain in the custody of the corrections department.
Several law enforcement officers and officials, including Fayette County Sheriff Kathy Witt and Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson, also argued against releasing Bennett early.
"If we let cop killers out of jail, what kind of message does it send to people?" asked Mike Sweeney, president of Bluegrass Lodge No. 4 of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Witt, who worked with Angelucci as a deputy sheriff, asked parole-board members to ensure that Angelucci's life and sacrifice had meaning and to honor him by denying parole for Bennett.
Larson said Department of Corrections officials probably requested the parole hearing because the department doesn't want to pay for Bennett's medical care. Larson indicated that whether Bennett is in or out of prison, taxpayers will foot the bill.
"This guy was supposed to end his natural life in prison, and that's what we're asking," he said.
In the audience was Brandy Durman, widow of Lexington police officer Bryan J. Durman, 27, who died after being hit by Glenn Doneghy's SUV on April 29, 2010.
Doneghy, 35, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on second-degree manslaughter and other charges stemming from the officer's hit-and-run death. Doneghy must serve 20 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.
Brandy Durman declined to comment.
"I hope she gets an idea about how this system works because she'll be here (in connection with her husband's death) sometime," said Larson, who speaks often about his opposition to the early release of criminals. "The question is, at what point do we begin to respect jury verdicts?"