BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – The man convicted in the 2014 death of former State Rep. Mike Locke will remain in jail after appearing for a parole hearing.
James Hamm Jr. appeared virtually for a parole hearing on Thursday at the Blountville Probation Parole Office.
Mike Locke was killed in 2014 when he was hit by a drunk driver on Fort Henry Drive in Colonial Heights, while he was putting up campaign signs. James Hamm Jr. was found guilty of vehicular homicide by intoxication and leaving the scene of an accident with a death – and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Hamm has been denied parole twice already. Thursday marked the third parole hearing where Hamm again sought release from jail.
Around a dozen family members and friends of Locke showed up to the hearing to show opposition to granting Hamm’s parole.
“On behalf of the family, of the citizens of Sullivan County, I implore you to deny his parole because he is still a threat to the community,” District Attorney General Barry Staubus said before the parole board.
“My life will never, ever be the same because of James Hamm Jr.,” Debbie Locke, Mike Locke’s widow, said at the hearing.
“I lost my husband, my soulmate, and my best friend,” said Debbie Locke in the hearing. “He had a reputation of gold and was described by many as the best man they had ever known.”
Hamm has served half of his sentence, Mike Locke’s family says he should serve it all.
During the hearing, Hamm apologized for the incident but said he believes he has earned a second chance.
“I regret every day my actions because I know my punishment will last forever, simply because I must carry it forever,” Hamm said in his parole hearing Thursday.
“Mr. Hamm chose to drink and drive and kill Mike and he should serve the consequences,” Mike’s brother David Locke said. “No matter how good a guy thinks he is after the fact, he is still guilty.”
State parole board member Gary Faulcon presided over the hearing and issued his recommendation: to rehear for parole in February. Until then he wants Hamm to successfully complete a drug screening and be evaluated for his risk to offend again.
Faulcon said it was concerning to him that Hamm was found trying to falsify a urine sample while incarcerated two years ago, and the Tennessee Department of Corrections has not given him another since.
“He has learned nothing. And he is one sick, self-centered man,” Debbie Locke said.
Thursday’s recommendation was disappointing to family members.
“To me, it’s a waste of time, a waste of everybody’s time and a waste of the court system’s time,” David Locke said.
Three other parole board members will issue their vote in the coming weeks, they can agree with Faulcon’s recommendation or vote to grant or deny parole for Hamm. Majority vote will rule.
“This is the third time we have been through this and it doesn’t get easier,” David said.
The Locke family sees this years-long battle to keep Mike’s killer behind bars as something bigger.
“My wish is that some other families do not have to go through this. That what we are doing here, this fight we are trying to do here will help somebody else. That’s what Mike Locke would have done,” Debbie said.