PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - The daughter of a murder victim speaks out in favor of the man convicted of killing her father.
In 1992, Denver Mitchell was convicted of murdering Willard Williamson and sentenced to life in prison. But a recent ruling by the Arkansas Parole Board sheds new light on the case.
They say Mitchell has served long enough for a crime he possibly did not commit and Williamson's daughter, Ronda Beasley agrees.
"I think 23 years is long enough for stealing a truck and getting in a fight with an old man," Beasley told Region 8 News.
Region 8 News sat down exclusively with the Beasley about the parole board's decision. It's one she backs completely as she believes the man who murdered her father is still a free man.
"He's very sorry that he beat up dad, he's sorry he left him and he's sorry he stole the truck. He's always said that, he's never denied it," Beasley said about Mitchell.
In the 20-plus years that Denver Mitchell has been behind bars, Ronda Beasley has visited him multiple times.
"Just to try to encourage him," Beasley said when asked what they talked about.
Beasley encourages the man accused of murdering her father, Willard Williamson.
In 1992 Mitchell was sentenced to life in prison. It's a place Beasley, and now, the Arkansas Board of Parole say he doesn't belong.
"Before I met Denver, it just seemed so ridiculous," Beasley said.
As we reported Monday, the board recommended Governor Mike Beebe commute his sentence.
In fact, Beasley has had her doubts for years. Even in the courtroom 22-years ago as she listened to the testimony against Mitchell, she had her doubts.
"Anyone that's familiar with the case, that reads those transcripts...they know he didn't do it."
'Those transcripts' are interviews police conducted with two teens who tipped them off to Williamson's body that hot August night 22 years ago.
Court records show Ed Rogers, then 15 years old, confessed to the crime. His friend Lee Ward told police he witnessed the beating.
"And that lines up with the autopsy," Beasley said. "How he was choked. How his jaw was broken, Lee Ward said he heard his jaw pop. How he was hit with a tire iron. All that adds up to the autopsy."
At first, Rogers was charged with the murder but when Mitchell became a suspect, charges against Rogers, the former assistant police chief's son, were dropped.
Beasley trusted justice would prevail and she says Mitchell did too which is why he went to trial instead of accepting a plea bargain.
"He would have took the plea bargain but he was young and foolish and he said he was gonna trust the judicial system and I probably would have done the same thing," Beasley said.
When the verdict was handed down, Beasley was stunned.
"If you sat in that courtroom and you were listening to the...you knew! It was just stupid. It was just so unfair."
Now 22 years later, she's still hoping justice will be served and Denver Mitchell will be released from prison.
"Do I want justice, yes? Do I want vengeance? No. They're not mine. I don't even think about the results other than I would love to see Denver free."
The daughter of a man beaten and left to die says the man who's serving the time did not do the crime and she's fighting to get him released.
"It's such a waste of taxpayer's money too when he could be out in society doing something with his life," Beasley said.
Included in the parole board's recommendation to commute Mitchell's sentence was a sworn statement from Beasley explaining why she believes the wrong man is in jail.
It's a statement that Mitchell's lawyer, Caran Curry, says was "very persuasive."
"He didn't do it! He did not do it."
Here is a timeline of the events that led up to Williamson's death and Mitchell's conviction according to court documents Region 8 News obtained. Following the timeline are links to the court documents themselves.