Kathy Kessinger of Winfield was strangled to death in 1984. Her then-20-year-old husband was convicted of first-degree murder.
Now, William Kessinger is 49 and about to get his walking papers. At the hearing in March, Kathy Kessinger's family pleaded with the Kansas Prisoner Review Board to refuse the parole. However, the board has since ruled that he qualifies.
Kessinger was convicted before a first-degree murderer could be required to serve 50 years prior to being eligible for parole. So, the board had to use guidelines that were in place at the time, before the law was changed in 1993.
State Representative Jim Ward was a prosecutor in the 1980s.
"It was very frustrating back in the 80s," Ward says. "Victims didn't feel like they had enough control, and people were getting out much earlier than they were anticipating. We saw a pattern of frustration by the public."
Kessinger wasn't the only Cowley County murderer from the 1980s to be paroled this month. Forty-three-year-old Timothy Monasmith found out he's also getting out of prison. At age 18, Monasmith broke into an elderly Arkansas City man's home and stabbed him several times. Monasmith's first-degree murder conviction also carried a life sentence, but he's scheduled to be released later this year.
Kansas Department of Corrections says 296 killers are still serving indeterminate sentences handed down before 1993.
The Kansas Legislature meets in special session next week to make changes in that "Hard 50" law. The purpose is to make it conform with a recent Supreme Court ruling. That ruling requires mandatory sentences to be handed out by juries, not judges as current Kansas law allows. Lawmakers contend they can amend the law retroactively, so all "Hard 50" sentences up until now remain valid.