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Woman tries to stop man’s release from Iowa prison

Published: Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 12:13 p.m. CST

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SIOUX CITY (AP) — A woman fighting the early release of her sister’s killer from an Iowa prison said she thinks the man is being wrongly categorized as a low-risk prisoner, and she has asked the governor to intervene.

Beth Williams has written to Gov. Terry Branstad and local officials in an effort to keep Brian Davis in prison. Davis was convicted in 1995 of second-degree murder in the death of Williams’ sister, Julie Baack.

Williams said she understands that overpopulation may have led to the approval of Davis’ early release, but she’s concerned he’s being wrongly defined as a low-risk prisoner.

“It’s all about money,” she said in an interview. “I understand that the prisons are full, the population’s high. He’s costing the state of Iowa money to keep him there. So they’re going to decrease it? So now they’re saying they’re going to let low-risk prisoners out? How can a murderer be defined as a low-risk prisoner?”

Davis was originally scheduled to be released on parole in 2018, but a three-member Iowa Board of Parole granted Davis an early release at a Jan. 25 hearing.

“I don’t care if he was a perfect prisoner, he should serve his time,” Williams said.

The 23-year-old Baack disappeared from her Le Mars apartment in 1992. Her remains were found three years later in a shallow grave in the Loess Hills, east of Onawa. Davis and Baack were dating at the time of her death.

Davis’ parole conditions include him living with family in Olathe, Kan., and having no contact with the victim’s family. Williams also contacted Olathe’s mayor to warn about Davis’ release.

Fred Scaletta, assistant director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, said inmates once categorized as violent offenders can complete programs like substance abuse to become low risk. He also said parole helps officials keep tabs on an inmate’s transition.

“We prefer not to just open the door and let them walk out on the streets. The adjustment can be very difficult, particularly since we can’t put ourselves in a position to verify and require that they spend, that they live with a particular family member that does have some credibility,” he said.

Davis has not been released yet because Kansas officials could decide not to accept Davis. In that case, his parole would be rescinded. But Iowa corrections officials could reconsider his parole under other living conditions.