|Marcus Shrader III, a serial killer who terrorized Onslow County in 1974, was denied parole after a review of his case by the state, the North Carolina Parole Commission announced Friday.
Shrader, 64, who was convicted in December 1974 of the first-degree murder and kidnapping of 19-year-old Cheryl Potter Boyd, will be reviewed again in September 2006, said Melita Groomes, executive director of the N.C. Post Release Supervision and Parole Commission. Shrader killed four Jacksonville women in 1974. He was tried only in one case.
The Parole Commission made its decision Monday, Groomes said. The information was released to The Daily News on Friday.
"I am very happy with the decision of the Parole Commission," said District Attorney Dewey Hudson, who spoke with the commission last week about why he believed Shrader should remain in state prison.
Shrader, a Navy corpsman at the time of the slayings, was originally sentenced to death. That sentence was converted to life imprisonment after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1976 that the death penalty was unconstitutional. Shrader has been eligible for parole since 1986, and his case is reviewed each year.
This year, the Parole Commission was mandated by the state legislature to do a thorough investigation of the cases of defendants who had detainers against them from other states or the federal government. Shrader, who was also convicted of robbing North Carolina National Bank in August 1974, also must serve a 20-year federal sentence.
When it was reported in The Daily News last week that the state Parole Commission was considering giving Shrader parole, family and friends of victims along with people who remembered the case from the 1970s called and wrote to the Parole Commission.
Groomes said she couldn't release information regarding the number of phone calls, letters or faxes the agency received about Shrader's parole.
The District Attorney's office also received many calls, and The Daily News received phone calls and numerous e-mails from people opposing Shrader's release.
The outpouring of concern and the response family members of victims received in the past week was overwhelming, said Susan Howard Henderson, whose 15-year-old sister, Cindy Howard, was sexually assaulted and killed by Shrader.
"It has been a very humbling experience to have citizens in Onslow County come forth after all these years and help us keep Shrader in prison after murdering four girls," Henderson said.
The response meant a lot to Angelo Amabile of South Carolina. Angelo Amabile's 15-year-old sister, Karen Amabile, was with Cindy Howard on Aug. 2, 1974. The girls went to mail a letter and were stopped by Shrader's stepdaughter, Debra Ann Brown. Brown knew Karen from school, and she offered the girls a ride in her van.
Shrader was in the van. He sexually assaulted both girls and strangled them to death. Their bodies were dumped in the Bear Creek area.
"I would like to say thank you from everybody in my family to all those who called the parole board and voiced their opinion in opposition to (Shrader) getting parole," Angelo Amabile said.
His father, Arsenio Amabile, of Jacksonville, was relieved by the Parole Commission's decision.
"I felt very good about it," Arsenio Amabile said. "It made me feel comfortable. I'm thankful for all the people who called."
While family members can rest easier knowing Shrader will remain in the medium-security prison at Eastern Correctional Institute in Maury for another year, many are still bothered that they will have to deal with it all again next year.
"If he was sentenced to life, it should be there from birth to life," Arsenio Amabile said. "He doesn't deserve to be free. Every year when this comes up it's another misery."
Henderson said the past few weeks have been difficult knowing Shrader's case was being investigated.
"I think it is so wrong to make the families relive the nightmare of losing a loved one every six months or every year," Henderson said. "It's been hard bringing up all the memories again."
The case also created challenges for the District Attorney's office, Hudson said.
Hudson didn't start working for the District Attorney's office until 1977. While he heard of Shrader, he didn't know a lot about the case.
"We had to go back and relearn what had happened in 1974," Hudson said. "Thank goodness we did have some people who actually worked on case that are still around."
Shrader was convicted of kidnapping Boyd from the parking lot of a Jacksonville post office Aug. 16, 1974. He forced Boyd to help him rob a bank and then shot her to death. Shrader was arrested Aug. 18, 1974. He was charged with kidnapping and killing Amabile and Howard. He was also charged with kidnapping 23-year-old Ginger Rader of Jacksonville in January 1974. He forced her to help him rob a bank and shot her to death.
But Shrader was never tried for allegedly killing Amabile, Howard and Rader - a fact that Hudson wasn't aware of until he reviewed the case to oppose Shrader's parole.
Hudson has now asked the Jacksonville Police Department and the State Bureau of Investigation to review their files to see if there is enough evidence to prosecute Shrader for those killings.
"It is worth our time and effort to ensure that he is not released," Hudson said. "The thought of him walking free one day is very frightening to me. He's a cold-blooded killer."
In order to prosecute Shrader for deaths that occurred 31 years ago, the state needs to produce new evidence or a witness that wasn't available in 1974.
"You have to show a compelling reason why you are prosecuting now when you couldn't do it 31 years ago," Hudson said.
If that evidence exists, reopening the cases would be time consuming, Hudson said.
"We have plenty to do without revisiting Marcus Shrader, but there is no other case that has ever been like Marcus Shrader," Hudson said. "He's a woman's worst nightmare."