TOPEKA, Kan. - Two Kansas legislators have written letters asking state corrections officials to grant parole to a 63-year-old inmate who is serving a life sentence for killing a Topeka woman more than 30 years ago, but the Shawnee County prosecutor said he strongly opposes such a move.
Rep. John Grange, an El Dorado Republican, and Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a Wichita Democrat, wrote letters last month to the Kansas Prisoner Review Board advocating for the parole of Ormond Wimberly Jr.
It's not clear if Wimberly has the support of other lawmakers because the state Department of Corrections has refused open records requests by the Topeka Capital-Journal to provide the names of people who spoke at three public comment sessions in October related to Wimberly's parole.
The department also refused to release letters from legislators unless they were signed using their official titles, which was the case in the letters from Grange and Faust-Goudeau.
Wimberly was convicted of the 1981 slaying of Sarah Woody, 75, who was shot five times during a robbery.
Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor said he adamantly opposes Wimberly's parole and noted he had been on parole for a murder he committed in the military when he killed the Topeka woman.
"This office strongly believes that Mr. Wimberly will always represent an extreme danger to the community, and through his voluntary and intentional actions has forfeited the right to be free from confinement," Taylor's office said. "It is inconceivable to this office that parole would even be considered for someone who has committed and been convicted of murder on two separate occasions."
The two legislators said in their letters they have personally met Wimberly and believe he has been rehabilitated and is ready to re-enter society.
The newspaper contacted Grange before filing an open records request with the Corrections Department, and he immediately provided an emailed copy of his letter. He also said he has corresponded regularly with Wimberly since they met in 2006.
Grange said Wimberly has a master's degree, has been a mentor to other prisoners and has had few disciplinary problems in prison.
"I wish him the best, and I have every reason to believe he'll be successful when he gets out," Grange said. "I hope we'll give him a chance."
Faust-Goudeau didn't return multiple phone calls seeking comment on her letter.
Wimberly served nearly 10 years after pleading guilty in court-martial proceedings to robbing and killing a fellow soldier in 1969. He went to work as a computer system analyst for the Kansas Department of Revenue and as an adjunct criminal justice professor at Washburn University after being released from military prison.
Wimberly was convicted in 1998 of Woody's murder after police questioned him in connection with the shooting death of his former female companion in Kansas City, Kan. Investigators found that bullets in the Kansas City killing were fired from the same gun that killed Woody, and that Wimberly's fingerprints matched prints from Woody's billfold and other items in her car.
Wimberly wasn't charged in the Kansas City homicide.
Grange, who didn't know if any other legislators had given support to Wimberly, said he was familiar with Wimberly's background.
"I'm pretty much aware of everything, but again, I go back to his history," Grange said. "When you go back to the history of the crime he committed, that's never going to change. What I look at is the character of the guy for the last 25 years. We're either in the corrections business or in the business of just lock people up and throw away the key."
The Prisoner Review Board is expected to decide on his parole this month.