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Ex-Alabama trooper denied parole for killing girlfriend

MONTGOMERY (AP) — A former state trooper who admitted killing his trooper girlfriend lost his chance at parole Tuesday and had his next parole consideration put off for five years, when he will be near the end of his sentence.

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles made the strictest decision it could make Tuesday for former State Trooper Joe Cecil Duncan Jr.

The decision came quickly after the board heard emotional pleas from the family of slain State Trooper Elizabeth Cobb and from present and former public officials.

"It's such a relief to know he's going to serve these five years," said the victim's mother, 75-year-old Edith Cobb of West Jefferson.

On Oct. 11, 1987, Elizabeth Cobb became the first female trooper killed in the line of duty in the United States. The 31-year-old officer was parked at a rural church near Selma, taking a break from her patrol work and snacking on potato chips when she was shot three times in the head at close range.

Duncan, now 52, had been engaged to her and was the beneficiary on her new $350,000 life insurance policy. Suspicion turned to him, based in part on a call he made to an insurance agent four months earlier to find out if a policy's double indemnity clause would apply to a trooper killed in the line of duty.

Duncan was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death, but he won a new trial on appeal.

Stuggled for verdict

In 1995, while the jury was struggling to reach a verdict, the prosecution and defense agreed to let Duncan plead guilty to murder rather than capital murder and receive a 25-year sentence. That sentence is due to end Oct. 14, 2012 — just a few months after Duncan is scheduled for his next parole hearing.

That next hearing might not occur. Typically, the parole board runs a few months behind. On Dec. 10, 2001, the board denied parole for Duncan and put off his next consideration for the maximum five years. But it took an extra four months for his case to get on the hearing schedule for Tuesday.

Inmates do not attend parole hearings, but friends and family can speak on their behalf. No one showed up Tuesday to advocate an early release for Duncan.

But State Attorney General Troy King, present and former Dallas County prosecutors, and top officials from the state Department of Public Safety attended to support the Cobb family.

"It meant a great deal, and I believe it made a difference," said the victim's sister, Barbara Cobb of Gardendale.

Cobb said she's glad Duncan will serve all — or nearly all — of his sentence, but it doesn't end family's pain.

"Joe will be going home in five short years. Elizabeth will never be coming home," she said.

Dallas County District Attorney Michael Jackson, who was a young assistant district attorney in Selma when the case went to trial, said Duncan got his break when he escaped a death sentence and he doesn't deserve any more breaks.

Assistant U.S Attorney Jim Sullivan, who helped prosecute Duncan as an assistant district attorney in Selma, said Duncan acted like a shattered boyfriend after the killing, even presenting the American flag from Elizabeth Cobb's casket to her family at the end of the funeral.

"It was part of his charade in the cover-up," Sullivan said.

Sullivan said he will never forget how Cobb was innocently eating sour cream and onion potato chips and appeared to have no concerns when she was gunned down by someone she trusted.

"It's been 20 years, and I have not eaten one sour cream and onion potato chip since then because of her death," he said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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