Killers & pols want to end life sentences

Three decades ago justice returned to the Bay State. Now the horribles want to take it away.

Some background: Newspapers across the country called him Willie, as if he was a phantom bad guy who lived only in darkness and didn’t deserve a last name, never mind a title. Those newspapers were right.

My newspaper called him Mr. William Horton, which made even me cringe, because it was our style to use honorifics, Mr., Miss, Mrs.,  for every adult without a higher title. I was the one who established the formal titles because I believed every human has value. Horton seriously tested that belief.

He was a bad man, a monster, someone to be loathed and feared.

For a short time he was, as well known, in infamy. That was after he set about to commit an after-dark service station robbery, and, in the process, stabbed to death a 17-year-old attendant working the graveyard shift to earn money to buy his first car, the aspiration of just about every teenage American male.

The dead boy, his body found stuffed in a trash can, was as innocent as they come. His name was Joey Fournier, the son of a French Canadian family that came to the United States to work hard to fulfill their dreams of becoming part of middle-class America. Joey’s part-time after school job was in the spirit of most immigrant families of the era.

Horton, along with two accomplices, was caught and sentenced to life in prison, there being no death penalty in Massachusetts.

Now, the horror of horrors. Horton went to Maryland one weekend, kidnapped a young couple and tied them up in their home. He then alternated between raping the woman and slashing the man with a knife.

He was captured and sentenced again to life in prison, this time in Maryland, where he still resides, because Maryland, unlike Massachusetts, did not let first-degree murderers out on weekend passes.

My newspaper, The Eagle-Tribune, raised holy hell, resulting in the discovery that the murderers got furloughs in an effort to mollify them. Our efforts resulted in a number of prison reforms, including the end of the furloughs.

Maryland then had real life sentences, much to everyone’s relief.

Everyone that is except the killers and their cohorts in the legislature, who want to end that.

The Lifer’s Group at MCI Norfolk has started a campaign to make the worst of all killers eligible for  parole after 25 or 35 years. Some pols have signed on to that nightmare.

Can you believe it?

We have no death penalty in this state.

Now, if these creeps have their way, we’ll be sending our murderers out into the world to once again rape, plunder and kill,

Joey Fournier died in vain. God bless his name.

Dan Warner is a veteran newspaper writer and editor.

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