The families of a convicted murderer and the Kansas Highway Patrol officer he killed pleaded for and against his release on Wednesday but left the Derby courthouse with tearful hugs for each other.
The families appeared at a parole hearing for George Rainey, who murdered Trooper F.F. “Bud” Pribbenow during a traffic stop on the Kansas Turnpike near El Dorado on July 11, 1981.
Rainey is one of 26 state prisoners eligible for parole in July. And Wednesday’s hearing in Derby gave both families a chance to argue why he should or shouldn’t be released.
But after testifying, members of the two families met in the courthouse lobby, acknowledged that both sides had been devastated by Rainey’s actions 36 years ago and said they bore each other no ill will.
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The conversation ended in a tearful embrace between Pribbenow’s daughter Rochelle Mann and Rainey’s sister Jacqueline Rainey and her daughter Mayah Rainey.
During the hearing, Mann argued to keep Rainey in prison as long as possible because he had demonstrated total disregard for authority and an inability to deal with life in an appropriate manner.
“I think it’s that utter disregard for life that concerns me about his potential for parole,” she said, arguing that he could be a threat to other families if released.
Pribbenow’s other daughter, Tracy Pribbenow, concurred.
“He (Rainey) has only served 35 years of what should be a life sentence,” she said. “He should never get out of prison and have the opportunity to hurt another family the way he hurt ours.”
Mayah Rainey said her family has kept in contact with her uncle through his prison years and that over time she has come to think of herself as his “surrogate daughter.” She was 5 at the time of the killing and has never known her uncle outside prison walls, she said.
She said he had been helpful and encouraging as she grew up to become a lawyer. She offered to provide any legal services needed for his release.
“After 36 years in incarceration, he is not the same man he was at the age of 23,” she said. “I do not believe that he is a threat to the community.”
Jacqueline Rainey asked that he be released to Georgia, where he has “many family members to step up and step in” in helping him return to life outside prison.