Nearly 33 years have passed since Jimmie Nelms shot state Trooper Conroy O'Brien twice in the head with his own .357 Magnum after a traffic stop.
On Monday, the trooper's widow, the daughter he never knew and a Kansas Highway Patrol captain got to say something about it.
Highway Patrol Capt. John Walters held up the trooper's picture as he spoke to the Kansas Parole Board on Monday. As Walters urged the board not to release Nelms, his voice became thick. Walters tried not to let emotion affect his voice but couldn't help it.
As he spoke, Tanda O'Brien Ulm bit her lip and wiped her eye.
Ulm, who was married to the 26-year-old trooper when he was killed, told the board, "I died that day, too. I've never been the same."
Neely Goen, the trooper's daughter who was born months after he was killed, told board members that she is not urging them either way — to keep Nelms in prison or release him on parole.
Goen, now 32, said she has communicated with Nelms and has forgiven him.
The board — which will decide whether Nelms could be released, as early as May 1 — took comments from the public at the Finney State Office Building downtown.
Later, Ulm, who remarried after her husband was murdered, said, "I wish I felt like my daughter did. I'm very proud of her."
But Ulm said she can't forgive Nelms.
"I don't want him out," she said. "I want him to continue living with that crime."
Her husband was near the end of his shift on May 24, 1978, when he was murdered near the Matfield Green service area on the Kansas Turnpike.
She was pregnant with their daughter.
He had grown up in Abbyville, about 20 miles southwest of Hutchinson, and played basketball and football at Fairfield High School and Sterling College.
He was about 6 feet 3, 250 pounds.
He wore a protective vest the day he was killed.
But he was overpowered after stopping Nelms and Walter Myrick, both of Tulsa, for speeding.
The killers made O'Brien clasp his hands behind his head and ordered him to walk to a ditch and kneel down.
He was shot execution-style.
According to testimony, Nelms pulled the trigger.
A third defendant, Stanford Swain, pleaded guilty to lesser charges and testified for the prosecution.
Myrick, who was convicted of murder along with Nelms, died in prison in 2009 at age 56.
Nelms, now 64, has served more than half of his life in prison for the killing. He is being held at Hutchinson Correctional Facility-East.
Nelms has been turned down by the Parole Board several times since 1993. The board will hold a closed hearing for him next month before reaching its decision. His earliest release would be May 1.
On Monday, Ulm told the board that she will never understand why Nelms keeps getting considered for parole.
Her daughter, Goen, said after the comment session that she has communicated with her father's killer and learned that Nelms "studies the word of God, and he prays."
When she asked Nelms what he does to pass time, he said he makes jewelry. He gave her a pair of earrings, first asking her if it was OK.
She broke down in tears after she told the board that she wanted her father to be remembered in a positive way.
"My dad did not give his life so we can mourn him," she said.
She said she wants people to "honor my father with love and mercy and grace toward all men."
Walters, the Highway Patrol captain, told the board that Highway Patrol offices statewide display plaques bearing the same picture of the fallen trooper that he was holding in front of them.
At each recruit graduation, the superintendent reads O'Brien's name with names of other troopers killed in the line of duty.
As a troop commander on the turnpike, Walters said, "there isn't a day go by that I don't worry about my troopers on the road, fearful that something like this could happen again."
Referring to O'Brien's family, Walters said, "How could we ever explain to them if this cold-blooded killer was paroled?
"We could not."