By PATSY R. BRUMFIELD/Daily Journal
The family of the late state trooper Steve Hood apparently is surprised to know the man deemed responsible for his death is out of prison.
So is the region’s District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case.
Will Francis, 28, is free on the state’s “earned release” program as of March 5, according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections’ website.
Francis pleaded guilty in 2010 to fleeing in the trooper’s death and was sentenced in a Pontotoc County hearing to 40 years with 33 years suspended.
“We would have objected to his release, if we had known about it,” Paul Howell, a DA’s office spokesman, told the Daily Journal today.
“We think he should have served his maximum time.”
Hood was killed when his patrol car flipped off the road as he was chasing a fast-moving car driven by Francis.
The Clarion-Ledger reports today that Matthew Hood, son of the late Mississippi Highway Patrol master sergeant, is now a trooper on the same roads his father used to patrol.
Steve Hood’s widow, Lisa, is a nurse in the area too.
The 50-year-old trooper was killed in 2009 during a pursuit with Francis’ Trans-Am, which was modified with nitrous for racing.
Officials said Francis was driving more than 140 miles per hour on Mississippi 370 near the Prentiss-Lee County line in northeast Mississippi.
A law enacted the following year made use of nitrous on Mississippi highways illegal.
MDOC officials reportedly are recommending release programs for numerous inmates these days because of heavy budget pressures.
At issue today, though, is whether Hood’s family was notified about Francis’ release.
The C-L reports that his family was not notified.
They said Matthew Hood thought he had signed up for text and email alerts with VineLink.com, which is supposed to let victim’s families know when offenders are released.
“There could have been a situation where Matthew could have run up on (Francis),” said Mississippi Troopers Association President Master Sgt. Jimmy Thomas. “If Matthew was confronted by the individual that was responsible for his dad’s death, I believe that he would have handled it professionally and utilized restraint as he was trained to do, but I do think that we, the general public, should be notified of those situations, especially law enforcement situations such as this. Even more so.”
Grace Simmons Fisher, MDOC spokeswoman, said she had checked to see if there were any victims to be notified when Francis was released.
“We have automated victim notification through the victim service division, and people can register in order to be notified of an offender’s whereabouts. We don’t have any registered victims for this offender,” she said. “I had that checked. We checked and double-checked.”
• Read Thursday’s Daily Journal for more information.