KERMIT, Texas -- A confessed serial killer has been paroled after serving less than 13 years of two life prison terms plus 550 years, and the district attorney said Wednesday he was concerned over the violent criminal's release.
Winkler County District Attorney Mike Fostel said he was upset that he received no notice that Tommy Ray Kneeland, convicted of murders in Winkler and Tarrant counties, was paroled last month to Hico in central Texas.
'I'm not mad at the Board of Pardons and Paroles, I'm just upset that they didn't give us any more notice,' Fostel said. 'I'm critical of the revolving door policy at our prisons.
'The governor promised us just last week that no violent inmates would be released, and look at this.'
Kneeland was convicted and sentenced to 550 years for the slaying of Nancy Mitchell, 27, of Kermit on Sept. 15, 1970. Mitchell disappeared while her two children slept, and her clothes were found cut up several days later along a highway. Her remains were found in a shallow grave in June 1971 near the west Texas town.
Kneeland was serving two life terms from Tarrant County (Fort Worth), where he was convicted of the July 1, 1972, slayings of a 17-year-old girl and 15-year-old boy. Both victims' throats were cut and the girl was raped.
On April 23, 1974, Kneeland kidnapped an Arlington girl and tried to rape her on a levy, but his truck got stuck in mud. The girl fell to her knees and started praying, and Kneeland left. The girl was able to identify him and the truck driver later confessed to the Tarrant and Winkler County crimes, Fostel said.
'He was implicated in a lot of other crimes in Texas and Oklahoma, but he didn't confess to them,' Fostel said. 'The ones he confessed to were not eligible for the death penalty back then.'
Fostel, who helped to prosecute Kneeland on the Winkler County charge, said that at the time, he thought that Kneeland might never get out of prison.
'We asked the jury for a large number of years to tell the prison system not to let him out. And what do you know, yesterday the chief deputy comes in and Kneeland has been paroled,' Fostel said. 'He threatened a lot of people who prosecuted him and some of the law officers. Some of them have retired and they are kind of nervous.'
Barbara Slaughter, spokeswoman for the Board of Pardons and Paroles, confirmed Wednesday that Kneeland was released Sept. 16.
Fostel said that Pecos County, where Kneeland's trial was held on a change of venue, was notified that in February Kneeland would be up for parole. Winkler County was not, he said. However, when he was not paroled in February, it was understood Kneeland would not be eligible again until February 1988.
'By law, they are supposed to serve a full third of a life sentence, which is 20 years. But this shows you how the system works and how they get credit off for other stuff. He was out in 12 years and nine months,' Fostel said.
'My whole gripe is that the system stinks when we let cold-blooded killers out like that,' he said. 'He could be rehabilitated, I don't know. But we weren't notified that he was coming out.'
Slaughter said that a new procedure recently instituted by the board will assure counties are notified of inmates' pending releases.