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Family fights parole for daughter’s killer

Sally King has known for 20 years that this fight was coming.

The man convicted of killing her daughter Stephanie was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after an appeals court granted a new trial and he pleaded guilty. Edward Russell Dubose had originally been sentenced to death.

King recalled that then-District Attorney Mike Godwin asked her if she could live with the new sentence.

“I told him, ‘I can live with not knowing he’s going to do this to someone else,’” she said. “I did not want him out where he could do this again.”

Stephanie, just 16, was reported missing in October 1988, when the pastor of Alco Baptist Church found the door open and her purse still in the church building when she was supposed to be cleaning. After a frantic search, King’s body was found hours later. She had been raped and murdered.

Dubose was arrested and tried for her kidnapping, rape and murder. A jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to death.

But an appeals court later ruled that Dubose’s attorneys had not done enough to counteract DNA evidence used in the case. A new trial was ordered, but he pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty before the trial could begin.

At the time of Dubose’s plea deal, Godwin reminded King that she would one day have to fight his parole.

Five years ago, King and her family fought parole for the first time, and received a huge amount of support from the community.

This year, the latest parole hearing is set for July 20 in Montgomery. King’s daughter Amanda has set up a Facebook page offering information, and several friends who remember Stephanie have joined the group and offered their memories.

“They haven’t forgotten, and that’s a really good feeling. Some of them have their own children now, and they see it from a different perspective,” King said. “It’s overwhelming to me the things they remember.”

The Facebook page suggests that those interested in joining the fight help in one of three ways: signing and circulating a petition, sending a letter to the parole board, or attending the hearing.

King said the community’s response will help determine the outcome of the hearing.

“The only way the parole board can make a determination is from the response,” she said. “In the judicial system, he has served a long time. Without a tremendous response, there is a great possibility he will be paroled. He has served 20 years.”

King has already received two full signed petitions in the mail, as well as a number of letters to be sent to the parole board.

“I do appreciate all of the support,” King said. “There is a tremendous amount of support. There’s no way to tell people what they’ve done.”

For King, the most important reason she wants to fight Dubose’s parole is to keep him from hurting another family.

“I don’t believe someone could do what he did and not have something happen again,” she said. “I know the Lord has that power — but you have to be remorseful and ask for it.”

King recalls from the first parole hearing that it is a stressful event — members of both families were packed into a small room to offer their testimony along with attorneys.

“I know that there are people on the other side that are hurting, too,” she said.

But King said she can never forget what he took from her and her family.

“I wish I could tell you I wasn’t resentful of what he stole from me,” King said. “Every day I fight that fight. I have grandchildren, and I see those babies and their smiles. … I know there’s a whole other half of our family that I lost.”