Wednesday, May 24, 2000

Victim's kin happy parole bid is rejected

Woman remains in prison until at least 2009

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A former Clermont County woman who has served 161/2 years in prison for killing her former boyfriend will spend at least another nine years there, after her early-parole request was denied.

        The news that Katherine Courtney, 58, is ineligible for another parole hearing until February 2009 was a relief to the family of Robert Dean. Family membere had vehemently protested Ms. Courtney's possible release.

        “It feels really good,” Pansy Cress, Mr. Dean's daughter, said Tuesday. “But there's still a sadness there that will never go away.”

        Mr. Dean was shot in the chest by Ms. Courtney in August 1983 after he broke off their relationship. He died in front of his home at age 46. Ms. Courtney was convicted of aggravated murder and is now incarcerated at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville.

        No official reason was given for the parole board's rejection.

        Mrs. Cress' notification from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction culminated a nine-month paperwork battle that began for her in September. That's when Mrs. Cress, of Goshen, Clermont County, was in formed that Ms. Courtney would appear before the parole board.

        The news was a shock to Mr. Dean's relatives because in March 1984, Ms. Courtney was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison, plus an additional three years because her crime involved a handgun.

        The Cress family didn't expect to appear before a parole board to argue against Ms. Courtney's release until 2007. Victims' families have the right to appear at hearings, though they never meet the convict.

        Ms. Courtney was eligible for parole, however, because a law that has since been changed afforded good-behavior credit to some aggravated-murder convicts. To serve the full sentence, there had to be a special circumstance, usually that the murder was committed during another felony such as robbery or kidnapping.

        In her case, there was none.

        The development prompted Greg Chapman, Clermont County assistant prosecutor, who handled the Courtney trial in 1984, to file motions for a sentence amendment. That failed, leaving the victim's family to take their case right to the parole board, which held a hearing April 26.

        The family got copies of old police records and photographs, gathered the trial transcript, collected over 1,000 signatures and began to make their case.


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