An inmate convicted of murdering a 15-month-old girl in 1963 walked out of prison Monday with the help of a cane after 49 years behind bars, The Arizona Republic reported.”It’s wonderful driving down the road and not seeing any barbed wire,” Betty Smithey told The Republic. “I am lucky, so very lucky.”
Smithey was convicted of murdering the young Sandy Gerberick on New Year’s Day in 1963 while working as the girl’s babysitter, according to The Republic.
She was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole and reportedly threatened to kill herself that same year.
Smithey continued to be rebellious during her early years in prison, and escaped four times from three different prisons, according to The Republic.
But she claims she changed over the years, especially after receiving a letter from the murdered girl’s mother, saying she forgives Smithey.
“She made me feel that I wasn’t a monster,” Smithey told The Republic. “I felt if she could forgive me for taking her child’s life, I could forgive myself. … It was my responsibility to try to become a better person than I was.”
Gov. Jan Brewer finally granted Smithey clemency in June, making her eligible for discharge and only the third such inmate since 1989 to be granted clemency, according to The Republic.
The Board voted 4-1 to grant her a complete discharge on Monday.
“I really see no value in keeping you in prison any longer,” Parole Board Chairman and Director Jesse Hernandez told Smithey during the vote, according to The Republic. “I really see no value in keeping strings on you any longer.”
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