Crime & Courts

Nancy Shoemaker family to KDOC board: Refuse parole for our daughter’s kidnapper

Just as he’s done four times before, Bo Shoemaker set a box full of petitions in front of the people who will decide whether one of his daughter’s kidnappers will be freed from prison later this year.

He doesn’t want Donald Wacker back out on the streets.

The nearly 15,000 people who signed the stack of petitions in his box don’t, either.

They fear that if Wacker is paroled, he’ll hurt another child.

Nancy Shoemaker was just 9 when Wacker and Doil Lane snatched her off of a busy south Wichita street on July 30, 1990, and drove her to a Sumner County field where Lane brutally raped and strangled her to death with a belt as Wacker stood by watching.

“Wacker is the only person who could’ve saved her. He could’ve stopped it at any time. He could’ve stopped the car. He could’ve stopped Lane,” Bo Shoemaker said.

But, he didn’t. Instead, Wacker helped and kept quiet about the murder. Nancy’s body was found by a jogger nearly seven months later.

“That tells you what kind of person he is.”

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Shoemaker’s remarks came Wednesday during the latest Kansas Department of Corrections public comments session, where members of the public can address the Prisoner Review Board in person about offenders who are up for parole.

Although the Bo Shoemaker and his wife, Julie, now live in Florida, they traveled to Derby this week to give the petitions to the board and ask it to deny Wacker’s latest bid for freedom.

He did so surrounded by dozens of people who also oppose 56-year-old Wacker’s possible release. He asked the board, which decides which offenders to parole and when, to not give Wacker another chance at parole for 10 years, the maximum pass allowed under current Kansas law.

Wacker, who has already spent 27 years in prison for kidnapping and aiding a felony in connection with Nancy’s abduction and death, is scheduled for his fifth parole hearing next month.

If he’s granted parole, he would be released and living back in Wichita as early as December.

Teresa Bennett, who helped gather signatures on the petitions in Bo Shoemaker’s box, told the board she’s scared of that possibility.

“If you parole him, Wichita and the surrounding areas will experience abject terror because this man … will do this again,” she said.

“Please don’t subject us to him. Don’t make me fear for my nieces, for my grandchildren.”

In addition to considering comments from the public and families affected by his crimes, the three-member Prisoner Review Board will meet with Wacker in person in November to ask him why he thinks he should be let go.

Board chair Jonathan Ogletree told those gathered at the Derby Police and Fire building for Wednesday’s public comments session that the board looks for “a degree of change before we make a decision” about an offender’s release.

He assured them that the community’s input is vital and that the board doesn’t take its job lightly.

The last public comments session this month will be 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Friday at the municipal courthouse in Topeka, 214 S.E. 8th St.

The public also can mail written comments supporting or opposing an offender’s parole to: The Kansas Department of Corrections, Prisoner Review Board, 714 S.W. Jackson St. Ste. 300, Topeka, KS 66603.

Wacker, who was given a 16-year to life sentence for his role in Nancy’s abduction and death, was also up for parole in 1999 (after serving less than half of his minimum sentence) and in 2004, 2010 and 2017, according to The Eagle’s news archives.

The Shoemakers have presented petitions against him each time.

Two years ago, the Prisoner Review Board denied Wacker’s parole bid citing the serious nature and circumstances of the crime, because he refused to take responsibility for it and because the public objected.

The Shoemaker family worries the short pass in 2017 might signal that the board is more willing to consider his release this time.

“Even though all these years have gone by, it doesn’t get any easier,” Nancy’s stepmother, Julie Shoemaker, said Wednesday.

Nancy was running an errand for Julie — fetching some 7-Up from a gas station near her home to help soothe her infant’s brother’s upset stomach — when she was abducted.

Nancy would’ve turned 39 this year.

“This rocked south central Kansas. I can’t overstate what a big deal this was to this community, what it remains in this community all these years later,” Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett told the board.

“I ask you to pass this man for as long as you can under our law.”

Not everyone who spoke to the board Wednesday wants Wacker to stay in prison. Joyce Wacker told the board she hopes to have her son home this year.

She said Wacker plans to live and attend church with her, continue his Bible studies and might have a job already lined up.

“I just want Donald back home because we need him,” she told The Eagle after addressing the board.

“He’s anxious to get out. He’s homesick.”