Andrew Golden's Release

UPDATED May 25, 2007 - Posted at 6:51 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO-It is believed that, now 21-year-old Andrew Golden may have left in a white van from a federal prison in Memphis around 12:30 Friday morning.

K8 News followed leads to Ravenden, in Lawrence County.

Neighbors have confirmed that the Golden family is residing in a white house on a rural road in Ravenden.

We also learned Andrew's father Dennis is a postman in the area.

A postal employee told us the Golden family is away on vacation.

But no matter his location, those like Brandi Varner, who's sister was killed in the shootings, wonder if Golden will return. "Is he going to try to come back here and shove it in our faces that this is what he did? Yeah, I fear walking into him, because I don't know what I would do," said Varner.

However, she says it is a little bit easier this time.

"It hit more hard with Mitchell because that's when everything opened back up. That's when we were forced to relive everything."

But she says with Andrew, it hits a little more close to home.

"Andrew is the one that murdered my little sister. The bullets from his gun are the ones that killed my sister."

A sister she remembers every day.

"All I see when I think of her is an 11 year old face. When I look at her friends, they are like living memories of her to me, so it's like I see this woman before me, but at the same time I see a child."

Varner says she was shocked when she learned of her sister's killer.

"If my sister had to name ten kids out of her class, Andrew Golden would have been one of them. It wasn't that they were close, but they had grown up together. She had talked to him. Her and her friends talked to him on the telephone and things like that. That's why it blew me out of the water. He never seemed like he had violent tendencies."

Now that he's a free man, Varner wonders if she can ever forgive Golden.

"There is a part of me that wants to forgive what happened, but at the same time I know there's just no way it can happen. I've worked with that a whole lot."

She says it's hard knowing that Golden and Mitchell can live their lives, but she knows they must face their past to move forward.

"They want to get out, and they want to live their life again, but they can't. It's not fair, and I think now they are having to face everything."

But for Varner, she faces life every day.

"I can't sit down and cry everyday. It's just something you come to terms with. No matter how hard you cry, and no matter how hard you pray. Nothing's going to change."

So with her sister's killer finally free, she wants to remember her sister, and just how easy the boys got off.

"I want people know about my little sister and what she wanted to do. She wanted to be a mother, and she wanted to do all of these things. Now she's not able to, and we are allowing 2 kids to come out after doing those things. That's what's unfair about all of this," said Varner.

**Earlier in the day we recieved several reports of Golden being in the Craighead County Jail.  We talked to Sheriff Jack McCann who says those reports were all false, and that Golden has not been in this area in a long time.

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May 24, 2007 - Posted at 6:15 p.m. CDT, updated at 5:33 a.m. on May 25

JONESBORO-At midnight Thursday evening, Andrew Golden turned 21 years old, and at that time he most likely walked free of a federal prison.

At approximately 12:20 a.m., a white unmarked van was spotted by a K8 News photographer leaving the Shelby County Penal Farm in Memphis, where there was some speculation that Golden may have been held prior to his release.  However, there is no evidence at this time that Golden was inside that vehicle.

He and his friend Mitchell Johnson were convicted of the murders of 5 people, after they opened fire upon Westside Middle School in March of 1998.

"They should not be walking the streets. They should not be walking the streets with no criminal record, and be able to own a firearm," said Attorney Bobby McDaniel.

"Do I think that's enough punishment for either of them? No! These boys are mass murderers. Say whatever you want, but they are mass murderers. It's just by the grace of God, that those other ten people or so that were shot, were not killed," said McDaniel.

Since the shootings 9 years ago, now 22-year-old Mitchell Johnson, has already been released.

In a recent deposition, he pinned the whole shooting on Andrew Golden.

"He just said we was going to run away. He had a spot in the woods somewhere. We didn't get into full discussion of where and when and all that. I was following him, really," said Johnson.  "So was he the ringleader in this operation," asked McDaniel.  "Yes, sir, he was," replied Johnson.

No matter who led the operation, two children convicted of murder are about to be walking free.

One question leaving a broken community full of concern, is Golden's location, which has been hidden.

"Federal law prohibits the disclosure of information relating to juveniles who are incarcerated in the federal system," said McDaniel.

But what is the possibility of his return to this region?

"Johnson did, and they have family here and friends here in Northeast Arkansas. So is it more likely that he would come back to this area, than say North Dakota? I think that's highly likely," said McDaniel.

But on this eve of the release of Andrew Golden, McDaniel asks that our thoughts focus on the families and the victims.

"They are the people we need to be focusing on. They want to know what happened. They want to know who said what and who did what. I ask the public to remember the victims tonight and tomorrow. Not just Andrew Golden," said McDaniel.

**Tonight, on K8 news at 5 and 6, I sit down with the sister of Brittney Varner, who lost her life in the tragic Westside shootings.  We'll talk about the release of Andrew Golden, plus how families are still healing 9 years later.

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