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No parole in slayings of deputies in Mobile

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — The state parole board decided Tuesday that 32 years in prison is not long enough for a man convicted of killing two Mobile County deputies during a gun battle in a swamp.

The board unanimously rejected an early release for Jerre Chatom and put off his next parole consideration for five years, which is the maximum time allowed by state law.

Mary Bailey of Mobile, the sister of slain Deputy David Beck, said she was relieved by the ruling.

'Not long enough'

"I know 32 years is a long time in today's world, but I'm sorry, it's just not long enough," she said.

Chatom's mother, Gloria Chatom, told the board her 54-year-old son had a drug problem as a young man that caused him to make serious mistakes, but he has changed in prison, including helping other inmates learn to read and write.

"He is no longer the young man he was 32 years ago," she said.

Parole board member Robert Longshore questioned that. He said prison officials disciplined Chatom in May 2006 for being under the influence of marijuana.

Chatom's crimes occurred Nov. 17, 1975, in Mobile County. An officer was pursuing a speeding vehicle carrying Chatom and another man when Chatom, a parolee with outstanding warrants, fired shotgun blasts at the officer's car. The two men then pulled into a dirt road and fled into a swamp.

Beck and Deputy Robert Stoltz were killed while searching for the two and another officer was wounded in the arm. Chatom's accomplice was also killed in a gun battle.

Chatom was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, which was the maximum punishment at the time. He won a new trial on appeal, but in the interim, some of the trial evidence had been discarded. At the retrial, he was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder and again sentenced to life.

Stoltz's widow, Joyce Evans of Mobile, told the parole board that her husband was shot in the back while searching through the swamp. She urged the parole board to keep Chatom in prison as a show of support for law enforcement officers who risk their lives daily.

Motioning toward several Mobile County deputies who joined the slain officers' families at the hearing, she said, "Your family is going to call on these men to save your lives."

The attorney general said Chatom committed his crimes during the period from 1974 to 1976, when Alabama didn't have a death penalty, and a life sentence was the harshest punishment available.

"He's been shown leniency enough," King said.

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

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