Since March 8, the face of Leo Gonzales Wright has stared up from my desk while I have wondered what to do about him. You remember Leo. He’s the carjacker who killed Bettina Pruckmayr in Northwest when she tried to escape , stabbing her 38 times. I tore out the story, by Kristan Metzler of the Washington Times, and put it in my do-I-want-to-do-this file. No, I don’t want to do it, but I’m going to anyway.
These stories in their unending procession first made me sick, then made me wonder what is wrong with this country that I once respected, and finally left me just not caring any longer. Why bother? What do you do when the government refuses to protect you and yours against the likes of Wright? Answer: Watch your kids like a hawk, keep your family out of Washington, tell your girlfriend to take the Beltway instead of going through the city, and load with hollow-point.
Wright was on parole when he killed Pruckmayr, a law student. This is normal, isn’t it? Some moral flatworm kills someone for a few bucks, gets some minor sentence, and gets sprung by some pack of idiots on a parole board-and kills someone else. It used to anger me, but it’s what we expect now.
In 1976, Metzler reports, Wright shot the owner of a market while robbing him. A couple of weeks later, he killed a cab driver. He got fifteen to forty-five for the murder and another fifteen for robbery. He got paroled in 1993. Fifteen plus forty-five is seventeen. I don’t know how the judge and the parole board worked this little scam. Probably the terms ran concurrently, which means the shorter sentence doesn’t exist. Then the parole board did its part by letting him out after barely serving the minimum.
Now, might not even a judge think that shooting two people in a couple of weeks, killing one of them, might indicate a proclivity for hurting people? Couldn’t a parole board figure out that the guy was just maybe violent? Between them, couldn’t they come up with some way of keeping this goon behind bars? Assuming that parole boards can read, why don’t they? How many times do you have to read of murders, rapes, and child molestation by parolees to suspect that maybe there is a pattern in their behavior?
It gets better. Wright should have been jailed for parole violations. He didn’t show up for meetings with his parole officer and tested positive for drugs. If the parole officer had done his or her job, Pruckmayr would be alive. To put it straightforwardly, the parole officer killed the poor woman. Yeah, I know. Oh, the terrible load on the parole board, it just isn’t possible to do the job. So very plausible. How hard is it to make a telephone call?
I don’t know who the parole officer was. Parole boards and parole officers who kill people ought to have their pictures published on page one, but somehow they always manage to avoid responsibility. But I’d like to know whether it bothers the guy ( if it was a guy). Is he proud that a screaming desperate woman got knifed three dozen times because of him? Sleep well, fellow? What’s your next trick? Gonna try for two?
Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to get practical about sentencing. By this I don’t mean throwing the book at everyone. Light sentences for non-violent crimes make sense given the shortage of prison space. They probably make sense anyway. If we gave life to everyone who had committed three drug felonies, just about everyone on campus in 1968 would be eligible. People who kill an abusive spouse aren’t likely to kill anyone else, so a life sentence isn’t necessary on grounds of public safety. Fine.
But certain categories of criminal aren’t fit for release, ever-not unless we’re crazy. A man who shoots two people in commission of two crimes is just flat dangerous, no matter how well he cons some clutch of googoos on a parole board. (“Yes, ma’am, I really do believe I have changed my life. I’m older, more mature. I can see what I did was wrong. What’s helped me is I’ve accepted the Lord Jesus Christ.” How many times have I heard that?)
Uh-uh, Jack, sez me. You kill someone in commission of a crime, and it’s life without parole. Rapists? They aren’t fixable. Life without parole. If we don’t care enough about our women to do it, we ought to exit to DOS. Child molesters? Life without parole. Kidnapping? Likewise. It ought to be mandatory.
There’s no other way to protect ourselves from judges and parole boards. Judges don’t like mandatory sentences, for good reasons, but their own abuses don’t leave us much choice. They killed Bettina Pruckmayr.