BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A Louisiana man convicted of the 1979 killing of his roommate and another friend is being released after 42 years in prison, his life sentence without possibility of parole recently commuted by a state board.
The Louisiana Board of Pardons and Parole voted 2-1 on Monday to release David Chenevert, who had agreed to the life sentence when he pleaded guilty in 1981 to stabbing Michael Brown and Evelyn McIntyre. The board's decision came after a nearly 90-minute hearing, during which the victims' relatives testified. Almost all of them spoke against releasing him.
Chenevert, 64, said he and his wife, whom he married while incarcerated in 2001, plan to settle far away from his hometown of Baton Rouge.
The son of a Baton Rouge police lieutenant, Chenevert cried as board member Sheryl Ranatza cast the deciding vote, with Pearl Wise voting in favor of his release and Bonnie Jackson opposing it, The Advocate reported.
Chenevert agreed to restrictions that include his leaving Louisiana and not returning without permission from a parole officer.
“You’ve done harm, you’ve healed yourself, and now you’re healing others,” Wise told Chenevert, who appeared at the meeting via a video conferencing web feed from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
Chenevert was 21 when he stabbed Brown, 26, and McIntyre, 18. Investigators said he was angry over missing drug money. He surrendered days later.
He avoided the death penalty in a plea deal, pleading guilty to two counts of second-degree murder in exchange for life without the possibility of parole.
The state Board of Pardons and Parole voted 4-1 to commute his sentence after a December hearing, citing his good conduct, participation in several rehabilitation programs, a low risk-assessment score and “demonstrated growth through service to others.”
On Monday, Chenevert described himself as a devout Christian.
“I am not the devil,” Chenevert said. “I am the face of rehabilitation.”
He directly apologized to the relatives of Brown and McIntyre.
“I am sorry for the pain and hurt I’ve put in each of your families,” he said.
Judy Poche, Brown's wife, said the reason she was able to move on after the killings was because prosecutors promised years ago that Chenevert would never walk free outside prison walls.
McIntyre’s family has remained forcefully opposed to Chenevert’s release. Her sister, Joan Guy, said she felt let down by the system that promised her parents, now both deceased, that Chenevert would stay behind bars for life.
“They didn’t tell my parents this would happen. This is not what they wanted. It’s not what they agreed to,” she said.
In addition to leaving Louisiana, Chenevert will be required to complete 20 hours of community service every month and is barred from contacting the victims’ families.