I have been caught up in the emotional storm of opposing John Brown's parole in the 1973 murder of David "Stringbean" Akeman and his wife, Estelle. His parole hearing was this week.
Brown was sentenced to 198 years in prison for murdering the Grand Ole Opry star and his wife during a robbery at the Akemans' rural home near Ridgetop, Tenn., according to news reports.
My whole attitude toward murderers has changed in recent years. Once, I might have been impressed by evidence of their rehabilitation, but I have come to see that there are two main reasons for their incarceration: to punish them severely enough to discourage other would-be murderers and to remove a dangerous person from society. I think the latter is society's primary responsibility to every citizen.
Any sane person would have to view John Brown as a potential danger to others. While Chaplain Amos Wilson said, "I'd have no problem if John Brown moved in next to me," I feel certain that most people would.
Here's a man who waited with his cousin Marvin at Akeman's home for hours while he was performing on the Grand Ole Opry, shot him in the chest while his cousin restrained him, chased down his wife and shot her in the back, and then shot her twice in the back of the head while she begged for her life. Anyone capable of that kind of savagery could never be considered safe enough to be returned to society, much less to be anyone's next-door neighbor.
Brown has said all along that he doesn't remember killing the Akemans. He lies in wait for several hours, shoots a man in the chest, chases down his wife and shoots her twice and doesn't remember it? They don't make liquor or dope that strong. It's an attempt to absolve himself of some of the responsibility for his brutal behavior.
His claim that he doesn't remember is all the more reason not to turn him loose. All he needs to become unconscious and commit hideous acts he cannot remember is a few drinks and/or some kind of drug. Alcohol and drugs are much too available for anyone to ever feel safe around him.
To prove that he does remember, he reportedly said, "I didn't mind shooting Stringbean, but it was kinda hard shooting his wife."
Between the time he killed the Akemans and was sent to prison, he married and his wife is the best thing he has going. I have no desire to disparage her. She works for a church and is probably a good person. But when she talks about Brown deserving release, she loses me. He deserved something more than he got.
Saying he has suffered enough ignores the suffering of many others. Stringbean and Estelle are still suffering from six feet of dirt being piled on their faces. Grandpa Jones still suffers from the loss of his fishing and hunting buddy. He still has nightmares of finding their bodies the morning after they were cruelly slain, and those images will torture him as long as he lives. The memory of his death still torments all of Stringbean's fans and few things are more gruesome than knowing one of your heroes died at the hands of a bonafide monster.
Parole board members should go to findagrave.com and place a picture of Stringbean's headstone alongside Brown's parole request. Tombstones are final. Let that be his final answer.
(P.S. I've just received word the parole board turned down Brown's parole.)
Contact Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.