HOLLY SPRINGS – Convicted murderer-rapist Douglas Hodgkin left the Marshall County Correctional Center on Monday.
The Mississippi Parole Board voted in February to release Hodgkin after he served some 22 years of a life sentence for the 1986 capital murder of Jean Elizabeth Gillies in her Oxford apartment.
Gillies’ murder was particularly brutal: The 24-year-old University of Mississippi graduate student was raped, sodomized and beaten before she died in a barehanded stranglehold.
“It was the most heinous crime I’ve ever seen,” said retired Oxford Police Chief Steve Bramlett, then a police investigator.
Bramlett and others familiar with the crime believe Hodgkin will repeat his crime.
“Since this guy comes from a class of criminals who have the highest recidivism rate of all, you can expect him to do it again,” said Chris Ganner, a college friend of Gillies and a Jackson criminal-practice attorney. “When he does, they’ll be able to blame the three individuals on the Parole Board who voted to release him.”
“We think he remains a dangerous individual,” said Gillies’ brother, Col. Paul Herbert (U.S. Army, retired). “We think those three members of the Mississippi Parole Board have made a grievous mistake.”
Hodgkin will live in Winchester, Ky., where his father is a retired banker and investor with ties to Gov. Steve Beshear and other Kentucky politicians.
A Lafayette County jury found Douglas Hodgkin guilty of capital murder but could not agree on a death sentence. Mississippi law did not provide then for life without parole – a loophole that was closed in 1995 – and he became eligible for parole after only 10 years in prison.
Hodgkin was turned down seven times before the Parole Board voted in January to release him despite personal testimony from Gillies’ siblings, Bramlett, Ganner and others. Public outrage deluged newspapers, talk radio and Internet forums for days afterward.
The Mississippi Legislature closed another loophole in Hodgkin’s favor that would have allowed him to be paroled without registering as a sex offender. Three days before his planned release date, Gov. Haley Barbour signed that bill, which went into effect immediately, delaying his release by more than three weeks.
Another new law forbids parole to those convicted of capital murder or a sex crime without at least a 4-1 vote by the Parole Board. Although it took effect immediately, it does not apply retroactively to Hodgkin’s 3-2 decision.
William Gillies, an Illinois lawyer and brother of Hodgkin’s victim, said even that is insufficient.
“If it takes a unanimous vote of the jury to convict him, it should take a unanimous vote to let him out,” he said.
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Errol Castens/Daily Journal