LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – A man sentenced to life in prison for murdering a woman at Mall St. Matthews will have to wait until next week to learn if he will be released from prison early.
Donovan Harris has been in prison for the last 24 years, serving time for the 1993 rape and murder of his ex-girlfriend Mary Byron. Harris was jailed for kidnapping and raping Byron a few days before her death.
He ambushed the unsuspecting young woman on her 21st birthday as she left the JC Penny off Shelbyville Road, where she worked as a hairstylist. Byron was unaware Harris was out of jail when she was attacked, a grim detail that prompted the creation of the victim information system known as VINE.
During a video conference Tuesday morning, Harris tried to convince the two presiding parole board members to grant him parole. Harris told board members Neeka Parks and Amanda Spears that he had “completely reformed” with the help of the prison’s anger management and sex offender programs.
“I'm completely stable. I'm completely secure. I am not a risk – this will never happen again,” Harris said. “I’m under control. I feel like I've earned a second chance."
Spears reminded Harris that he “unilaterally imposed the death sentence” on Byron and her family, causing them years of pain and suffering.
"I can't defend anything that happened in 1993,” Harris said. “I was wrong."
The two parole board members questioned Harris for about 90 minutes before going into deliberation. After deliberating for about 20 minutes, the pair emerged to announce the case would be sent to the full parole board for consideration.
“Someone at the institution there will let you know what that vote turns out to be,” Spears explained to Harris.
The full, nine-member parole board will take up Harris’ case next Monday, Aug. 21. The board can grant Harris parole, defer his next parole hearing for up to 10 years, or order him to serve the rest of his life sentence – preventing him from ever appearing before the parole board again.
Byron’s family asked the board to deny Harris parole during an emotional hearing Aug. 14.