Neelley, a former Tennessee cheerleader sentenced to death for the murder of a 13-year-old Georgia girl, was saved from the electric chair when former Gov. Fob James commuted her death sentence several days before he left office in 1999.
Neelley’s attorney, Barry Ragsdale, had argued that she should be immediately eligible for parole consideration because state law allows an inmate serving a life sentence to come up for parole consideration after 15 years. He argued that she had been in prison four years beyond the 15-year requirement.
Reese ruled Monday that state law requires that a person must serve at least 15 years in prison after a death sentence is commuted to life in prison. The judge sided with the state parole board’s view that Neelley must wait until 2014 before she can seek a parole.
Ragsdale said he does not plan to appeal Reese’s ruling and filed notice with the judge Tuesday that he will no longer represent Neelley. In his filing, Ragsdale told Reese that he has been serving as Neelley’s attorney through federal and state appeals since 1989 and has not been paid by the government or Neelley.
Ragsdale said he advised Neelley it would probably not be wise to appeal Reese’s ruling, but “ultimately that’s her decision.”
Neelley, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., was convicted on capital murder charges in the 1982 kidnapping and murder of Lisa Ann Millican. The teenager was abducted from a Rome, Ga., shopping center and sexually abused before Neelley injected her six times with liquid drain cleaner, fatally shot her and dumped her body in Little River Canyon near Fort Payne.
The killing came during a crime spree in which Neelley and her then-husband, Alvin Neelley, also kidnapped and murdered 22-year-old Janice Kay Chatman of Rome, Ga. Alvin Neelley is serving a life sentence in Georgia for Chatman’s death.
The director of Victims of Crime and Leniency, Miriam Shehane, said Reese made the right decision. She said she hopes Reese’s decision means that Neelley will “disappear” behind the prison walls for the next 12 years.
“I still think it’s a crying shame that we were put in this position because someone felt he had to commute a woman’s death sentence,” Shehane said