TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Family members of a Topeka man who was killed before having his tattoos cut off and teeth pulled are angry and stunned that the state has agreed to parole his killer.
The family of Charles Duty, 33, was notified Wednesday that Kenneth Cook has been granted parole, although a specific date for his release has not been determined. Testimony at Cook’s trials indicated Duty was killed while he slept, then his tattoos were cut off, his teeth pulled, and his body was tied to a metal bar and thrown in the Wakarusa River.
“We felt like we lost him all over again,” said Shelleen Duty Eberhart, Duty’s sister, who lives in Florida. “We fought so hard. We just don’t understand this decision. We are sad, angry. We are in shock.”
Cook, now 59, is serving a sentence is 15 years to life in prison for Duty’s killing, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. He was found guilty in 1994 of first-degree murder and given a “Hard 40” sentence. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the body’s mutilation did not warrant a sentence of no parole for 40 years and ordered that he be resentenced. Cook was resentenced in 1996 to life imprisonment, leaving him parole eligible after 15 years in prison. A federal appeals court overturned his first-degree murder conviction in 2003 and he was then convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
Cook was considered for parole but denied last May.
In April, Eberhart began writing letters to the Kansas Department of Corrections asking that Cook’s parole be denied. She also started a Facebook page and a petition against his release, and she spoke before the parole board in November.
Eberhart said she was told Cook could be released in about two weeks. She is asking that he be tracked through electronic monitoring.
“We are receptive to thoughts and comments of victims and community members,” corrections spokesman Jeremy Barclay said.
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