Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer said Tuesday that he has denied pardon requests from 21 state prisoners — including a man who helped kill a pregnant Wichita teen 12 years ago.
Family and friends of 14-year-old Chelsea Brooks received letters earlier this year notifying them that 29-year-old Everett Gentry was asking for a reduction in his sentence. He is serving 25 years to life in prison for orchestrating Chelsea's killing with two other men so her baby's father, Elgin Ray Robinson Jr., wouldn't be prosecuted for rape.
Chelsea was nine months pregnant with a daughter she planned to name Alexa.
Robinson, the baby's father, offered to pay Gentry $1,000 to have Chelsea killed, according to testimony during Robinson's trial.
The murder-for-hire plot "was one of the most horrific crimes" Wichita has seen, Colyer said during a news conference outside of the Sedgwick County Courthouse, where he announced the denials.
"I received letters and emails from 125 Kansans asking us to deny the clemency for this killer," Colyer said.
He refused to say Gentry's name. But a list of the 21 inmates sent out by Colyer's office later had Gentry's name on it.
Chelsea's mother, Terri Brooks, said during the news conference that she and her family were grateful for the governor's decision and that Gentry would remain in prison for now.
She stood beside a large, framed photo of Chelsea smiling as she spoke.
"I don't believe in mercy for murder," she said. "And we're going to work every day that we have to make sure that they spend the rest of their natural lives behind prison bars."
Chelsea, a middle schooler, disappeared on June 9, 2006, after she went to a south Wichita skating rink with friends. Gentry, then 17, picked her up and promised to take her to see Robinson, her child's father. But instead, he drove her and Ted Burnett to a remote spot near Andover.
Burnett choked Chelsea to death on the way.
During the drive, Gentry turned and tapped Burnett to signal that it was time to kill her. He turned up the radio while she died.
Her body was found buried face down in a shallow grave six days later.
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett, who tried the men with now-Judge Kevin O'Connor, said Tuesday the strides Gentry has made in prison are commendable. But, he said, "the 11 years he's spent to date are simply insufficient."
Robinson's and Burnett's capital murder "convictions have been upheld by the Kansas Supreme Court, and there's no reason to allow the third party involved in this to see a minute less than what the law provides," Bennett said.
Gentry could be released as early as 2031. He's eligible for parole for the first time that year.
Chelsea's murder led Kansas legislators to pass Alexa’s Law, which allows prosecutors to bring double charges against a person who attacks a pregnant woman and harms or kills her unborn child.
The other prisoners Coyler denied pardons for Tuesday are:
- Ryan Bader, Johnson County
- Brandy Brown, Barber County
- John Calvin, Wyandotte County
- Jessica Chambers, Sedgwick County
- Zachary Coon, Sedgwick County
- Wallace Dixon, Lyon County
- Dana Flynn, Geary County
- Sherman Galloway, Douglas County
- Charles Hollingsworth, Shawnee County
- Ashley Hopper, Lyon County
- Milo Jones, Sedgwick County
- Aaron Myers, Bourbon County
- Dennis Parker, Geary County
- Richard Primm, Wyandotte County
- Jaquan Rasberry, Riley County
- Andrew Storer, Sedgwick County
- Austin Tabor, Shawnee County
- Andre Tamplin, Johnson County
- Kamrie Whitaker, Stevens County
- Tarlene Williams, Wyandotte County
In Kansas, pardons are rare. Governors have granted them only nine times in the last 25 years, Colyer said.