Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Parole Hearing

We (Marc, myself, Virginia, Phyllis, Beth, Becci, & Roger Frueh) traveled to Cameron to Western Missouri Correctional Center for the parole hearing. Let me start by saying that this was most of everyone with us first time in a prison. Virginia was our expert since she has worked at Cameron and Clarinda. She did tell me kind of what to expect, but it is different when you actually get in there. Quite intimidating to have to depend upon someone else to let you out of the facility. There we were met by the prison's parole officer and our victim advocate specialist. They explained to us what was about to happen and were there for support. We were led through the locked doors a few at a time and down the stairs to the hearing room that was no bigger than our master bathroom. It was tiny! Not quite what we have envisioned. There were three people on the opposite side of the table from us. Not sure what all their titles were, but everything was recorded for the other parole board members that were not present. They asked us if we wanted Ryan Sundermann present for our statements, which we did. He was brought in with an officer and was allowed one support person with him which was his Mom. We were instructed not to look at him and the same was expected of him. There was to be no eye contact between the two parties. One gentleman did essentially all the talking on the panel and started by questioning Sundermann. He showed no sympathy in his questioning and statements as he went through all the charges, including the manslaughter charge that got him where he is now. He questioned him as to how his BAC could be so high if his statement was true. "I'm not sure how it was" was the response he received. The board member asked Sundermann if he was attending any classes. He stated he was attending AA meetings, but had only been to 5. We found out that the prisoner has to attend a minimum of 5 classes and give the facilitator a 2 week notice and they will send a letter to the parole board stating their progress. Sundermann had no letter because he had just attended his fifth meeting. Basically he was trying to make a good impression, but that did not work. Sundermann was asked as to why he was not attending any other classes or getting any other help, to which he replied he just hadn't yet. The board member instructed him to do so, including a victim impact class. Obviously he could sense the lack of remorse too. His mother was allowed to speak also. We were told by our advocate to expect lies from them and were told we could not rebut anything they said. I was just shocked at what his mother was saying. She still believes her son is innocent. She was still blaming the accident on me. (I do that enough myself without her adding to it) She stated he was not traveling that fast and that both vehicles were in the middle of the road at impact. I wanted to stand up and scream "I had no where to go! He was in my lane! Had I not pulled to the center we wouldn't be here because we would all be dead! Is that what you would rather have!" but couldn't. I just expected the denial by his family to be over by now since he is in prison. I would like to think that if that was my child I would be telling them that they screwed up and need to face the punishment and get some help. It then began to be our turn. Virginia read her statement first, followed by my Mom and then me. Roger had the chance to speak before we left too. The board members told us it would be 4-6 weeks before any decision would be made since it has to be discussed by all the members. They confirmed that Sundermann's conditional release date is in June of 2012, which we knew and they gave us the indication that they could not see him being released any sooner than that at this time. We felt better hearing this, but I am not getting my hopes too high until I see it in black and white. We have just had too many other things not go the way they were supposed to. So, here are the options that could occur now - he can be paroled now, his date could be set at the release date of 2012, or he can be set for another parole hearing in 2 years. We will just have to wait for their decision.
I want to thank everyone for their prayers, support, and letters and we continue to battle the legal aspects of this. We took down over 40 letters and I am sure that helped. The board members looked through some of them while we were there, so I know they will be read. Thank you!

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