Grisly murder cases are not new to Suzanne Lister, but this one is different. The 1994 slaying of Nancy Heuring was the first murder case assigned to Lister as a young prosecutor. Heuring, a retired state Department of Human Services worker suffering from multiple sclerosis, was beaten to death by two 16-year-old girls she paid to take care of her at night. Lister calls it a senseless, vicious crime, so she is determined to keep the women responsible for Heuring's death behind bars. Carie Walker, who was convicted of bludgeoning Heuring with a fireplace tool, was denied this month in her bid for parole. Co-defendant Dedra Wilhite, who pleaded guilty to a reduced charge after her confession was tossed out by a judge, was recommended for early release in November, but she won't get out unless Gov. Brad Henry signs off on it. Lister and Heuring's family are determined to keep that from happening. Heuring's daughter and nephew joined Lister in writing protest letters to the governor. Nephew Kent Ferguson, a former Olympic diver, said he is afraid Wilhite will repeat her crime if she is released, a sentiment echoed by Lister in her letter. “Dedra Wilhite remains as manipulative and non-remorseful today as she was in 1994,” Lister wrote. “She minimized her involvement in the homicide when questioned by the investigator assigned to prepare one of the reports relied upon during her parole hearing.” Lister said Wilhite's version of Heuring's death is inconsistent with her 1994 confession and physical evidence found at the scene. Wilhite's confession was thrown out after a judge ruled she had not been notified of her rights. The decision forced prosecutors to offer Wilhite a deal that spared her a life sentence, Lister said. Wilhite has earned her GED and completed some vocational courses while in prison, according to a parole board investigator's report. She has had 18 misconduct reports, including two for drug possession, but none since 2005. Wilhite, now 30, has served less than half of her 35-year term, which Lister insists is not enough. Since 1999, violent offenders like Wilhite have been required to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences before they are eligible for parole. The governor's staff is reviewing Wilhite's case, which was delivered to Henry's office in January, a spokesman said. Henry reviewed 135 cases in January and granted parole for 101 inmates, according to the state Corrections Department. Lister, who now has handled about 60 murder cases, hopes the governor decides to keep Wilhite in prison. “This was a premeditated act that should make normal, civilized people take note,” Lister wrote. “Oklahoma citizens with disabilities should and will be outraged if a cold-blooded killer like Dedra Wilhite only has to serve 14 years for such a heinous, senseless crime.” Contributing: Julie Bisbee, Capitol Bureau
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