MT. OLIVE - Seven men serving life sentences for heinous crimes committed when they were under 18 years of age are now eligible for parole due to a change in state law.
Lawrence Messina, communications director for the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, which oversees the state's corrections system and parole board, said all seven men are serving life sentences without mercy at the Mount Olive Correctional Complex in Fayette County.
The West Virginia Legislature last session passed a law doing away with life sentences without mercy for juveniles who are under 18 at the time of the crime. The change in law was intended to prevent juveniles from facing life sentences without the possibility of parole, and now requires a parole hearing for juvenile offenders after they have served 15 years of a sentence.
Benita Murphy, chairman of the West Virginia Parole Board, said on the advice of legal counsel the board is applying the change in law retroactively. Some state officials have argued nothing in the law states the changes are to be applied retroactively.
Five of the seven men will have parole hearings in September while the other two will have parole hearings in 2017 and 2023 due to the timing of their convictions.
The men now eligible for parole hearings are:
* Kelly Chapman, 21, Kanawha County. In November 2008, when Chapman was just 16 years old, he shot a pregnant woman, wounding her and killing the fetus. In 2011, Chapman pled guilty to first-degree murder and first degree attempted murder. Under the changed law Chapman will now be eligible for a parole hearing in 2023.
* Cecil "Clay" Holcomb III, 36, Fayette County. In 1993, 15-year-old Holcomb was accused of murdering his parents. He pled guilty and was given two concurrent life sentences without mercy. He will go before the parole board Sept. 2.
* Michael Day, 29, Cabell County. In 2002, the 17-year-old Day was accused of taking part in the beating death of a homeless veteran. Day was convicted in 2004 and sentenced to life without parole. He will now be up for a parole hearing in 2017.
* Larry Hall II, 37, Taylor County. In 1995, Hall was nearly 18 years old when he beat a teen boy to death. Hall was convicted in 1998 of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without mercy. He will go before the parole board Sept. 2.
* Lawrence Redman, 47, Berkeley County. In 1984, Redman was two months shy of his 18th birthday when he stabbed a man to death. Redman pled guilty to first-degree murder in 1986, receiving a sentence of life without parole. He has since unsuccessfully appealed the plea and sentence multiple times. He will go before the parole board Sept. 2.
* John Moss, 52, Kanawha County. Moss was convicted in 1984 of three counts of first degree murder. In December of 1979 at age 17, he strangled to death a 26-year-old woman, her 7-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. He was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences without mercy. He will go before the parole board Sept. 2.
* William Wayne, 56, Wood County. In 1975 at the age of 17, Wayne shot and killed a shopkeeper during an attempted robbery. Wayne was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole. In 1980, Wayne was convicted of killing an off-duty West Virginia State Trooper during a jailbreak from the West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville. As an adult, he was given a sentence of life with mercy.
Wayne will go before the parole board Sept. 2.
Murphy said the law only allows for a parole hearing and does not guarantee any of the felons immediate parole.
"It only allows for the board to interview them for parole," she said. "It's up to the board to decide whether to grant parole."
Messina said all of the parole hearings will occur at the Mount Olive Correctional Complex.