Wednesday, January 27, 1999

Parole board says no to serial killer


Victims' families welcome the news

BY SHEILA McLAUGHLIN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Convicted serial killer and rapist Larry Ralston will spend at least the next decade in prison for the murders of four young women in the 1970s.

        The Ohio Parole Board denied the former Norwood resident's release Tuesday, even though Mr. Ralston's good behavior has earned him a bed in a dormitory for “privileged” inmates and a job working on Ohio Department of Transportation trucks.

        The parole board's denial “was due to the nature of the crime, and they didn't feel he had served enough time,” said Andrea Dean, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

        The board, which met with Mr. Ralston at Chillicothe Correctional Institution mid-morning Tuesday, also considered the outcry from the public and victim's families, she said.

        More than 400 people signed petitions and wrote letters protesting Mr. Ralston's release.

        Mr. Ralston, 49, will be eligible for a parole hearing again in January 2009, Ms. Dean said.

        Relatives of the victims said they were elated by the decision.

        For Dori Porter, the mother of Mr. Ralston's first vic tim, Linda Kay Harmon, the victory was bittersweet.

        “It's one step closer to justice for Linda. I can breathe for a little while,” Mrs. Porter said from her home near Ocala, Fla.

        “The bad news is we have to do this again in 10 years.”

        Mrs. Porter, 62, met with a member of the parole board last fall, pleading to keep Mr. Ralston in prison.

        Darrell Bear, whose sister, Elaina, was 15 when Mr. Ralston raped and strangled her in January 1977, sent a letter to the board last September.

        “I don't believe in the death penalty, but I don't think the man should ever be released from jail,” said Mr. Bear, of Colerain Township.

        At age 21, he had the terrible task of identifying his sister's body by a small tattoo on her wrist.

        Mr. Ralston was sentenced to four life terms for the killings of Miss Harmon, 17, of Mount Washington; Miss Bear, of Northside; Diana Sue McCrobie, 16, of Springfield Township; and Mary Ruth Hopkins, 21, of the East End.

        Their bodies were discovered between 1975 and 1977 in Clermont and Hamilton counties.

        A fifth murder conviction in the slaying of Nancy L. Grigsby, 23, of Withamsville, was overturned because prosecutors did not establish a cause of death during trial.

        Police said Mr. Ralston confessed to the five slayings and pleaded guilty to raping three 15-year-old girls, an act that broke open the murder investigations.

        “I couldn't imagine them putting him out on the street. I want him to wake up every day looking through them bars. He's destroyed a lot of families,” said Gene Sanders of Felicity, one of Miss Hopkins' 10 siblings.

        Sam Hopkins was 3 years old, and his sister, Heather Hopkins, was 1 when their mother was killed.

        “It affected my life traumatically,” said Mr. Hopkins, 25, of Felicity. “It's been real hard. It has haunted me forever. I'm always thinking what went though her mind at that last minute.”

       



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