2 East TN families wait for final vote in 1980 convicted murderer’s parole hearing

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BLEDSOE COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) – There are two East Tennessee families wanting justice, while one man is hoping for freedom. But it’s a waiting game for those divided by a Morristown murder nearly 40 years ago.

On Tuesday, Randy May, who was given a life sentence, had his seventh parole hearing. The state tells us parole board members have decided for some time to hear May’s case annually.

RELATED: Nearly 39 years after brutal murder and attack, convicted killer could be freed

The crime that shocked Morristown

On July 20, 1980, armed with a badge and handcuffs, May pretended to be an officer. He coaxed 16-year old Mary Jones and her friend, 15-year-old Mitzi Sizemore, into his car, then drove into the woods where he stabbed Mitzi in the chest, slashed her throat and handcuffed her to a tree before moving on to murder Mary. May left both girls to die, but only Mitzi escaped.

RELATED: Sheriff recalls 1980 murder of Mary Jones: ‘It was the most terrible crime scene I have ever worked or witnessed.’

The seventh parole hearing

At Bledsoe County Correctional Complex, it was just air that divided the room from Randy May. He sat in front of a camera for his seventh parole hearing.

“It’s where you can’t hardly breathe. I just sat there the whole time and watched him,” said Sizemore.

May shared with one parole board member, who video-conferenced in on the hearing, about the crime he committed in 1980.

Two people sat in the parole hearing in support of May.

“He is not the same person who entered the prison system some 40 years ago,” said Alex Friedmann, Associate Director for the Human Rights Defense Center.

For Sizemore, she says it was hard writing and reading her statement to share at the hearing.

“He took her life completely away but he took mine too. I live in fear. I see it everyday of my life. When I close my eyes, I see his face,” Sizemore told the board.

Hamblen County Sheriff Esco Jarnigan, Crossville Police Chief Jessie Brooks, and Cumberland County Sheriff Casey Cox all shared their concerns and opposition to May’s possible parole.

“I don’t think we’ll ever know the real truth behind why he did it,” said Mary’s sister, Patti Conkin.

Mary’s sisters sat quietly while May asked for a second chance.

“I’m sorry for the pain that I caused both victims. I cannot change the past, I wish I could, I would,” said May.

The wait begins while a final decision is made

Only one parole board member voted on Tuesday. Her decision was to decline parole based on the seriousness of the offense. Her recommendation also included that parole board members hear May’s case in four years.

Sizemore and Mary’s sisters say they’re relieved but sitting on a powder keg while they wait.

“I feel like she’s proud of us She fought for her life and we’re fighting for her still,” said Mary’s sister, Loretta Warner.

A final decision is only reached when there are four votes — all in agreement.

In total, there are seven parole board members so that if there are disagreements, all of them can vote to get to that conclusion. This process generally takes seven to 10 days.

Parole board members reach their decision on whether to deny or approve parole based on the seriousness of the offense, time served, victim input and more.

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