MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Jan. 18, 2008, is the day Jacqueline Gibson says her life shattered.
That is the day that Garry Cleve Kraft shot her 22-year-old son, Roy Lee Warren Jr., to death at his home on Keeling Road near Trimmier Park.
Gibson said the dispute that preceded the shooting was trivial. She said her son had gone over to Kraft’s house to ask him to stop firing his gun because there were children nearby. Testimony at Kraft’s subsequent trial indicates that he fired three times at Warren from his .45 caliber gun – including the fatal blast through his chest.
Gibson said she will never get over her son’s death, which took place two weeks before he was to go into the Coast Guard. But she added that she took a measure of solace in the “guilty” verdict in December of that year and the life sentence imposed by then-Judge Charles Graddick the following month.
So it was a shock, Gibson said, when the state Department of Corrections informed her in early 2019 that Kraft was getting out under a medical furlough created by the Legislature in 2009. It is designed for terminally ill inmates or those or are chronically ill.
Gibson said she could live with her son’s killer spending the last few months of his life at home.
“If he had a year?” she said. “Yeah. I mean, even after what I went through, I don’t want my heart to go in that place. … But after two, almost two and a half years?”
Kraft, now 64, could not be reached for comment.
Medical furloughs are rare, according to Alabama Department of Prison statistics. In July, the most recent month for which data are available, only 11 of the roughly 25,000 peopled locked up or supervised by the prison system were on medical furlough.
In fiscal year 2009, the first year the program took effect, more inmates died awaiting an answer on their applications than got the release – 35 compared to four. Of the 216 applications that first year, the prison system denied 71 based on the nature of their crimes.
According to Corrections Department regulations, the release program is open to prisoners who have a terminal illness expected to result in death within 12 months. It also is available to prisoners 55 or older and who suffer from chronic life-threatening and or debilitating diseases related to aging.
But exactly how the department makes those decisions – who warrants release in one case but not in another based on the nature of the crime – is shrouded in mystery. Officials declined to provide details or answer questions.
Kristi Simpson, the prison system’s assistant to the chief of staff, sent a statement to FOX10 News: “In accordance with applicable state law and ADOC guidelines, inmate Garry Kraft qualified for and was placed on medical furlough due to an advanced, terminal illness. Kraft has remained compliant with the terms of his medical furlough.”
Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich, who personally prosecuted Kraft, told FOX10 News that her office never received formal notice that he was being considered for a medical furlough.
“It was the victim’s family that notified us that he was out, and then we looked into it,” she said. “And we adamantly opposed it. We got all of his medical records, and we don’t believe that he meets the grounds for medical furlough.”
In addition to questioning whether Kraft is sick enough, Rich said she does not believe that he meets another requirement listed in Corrections Department documents – that he be a low risk to the community and does not constitute a danger to himself or society.
“First and foremost, Garry Kraft is a murderer, OK?” she said. “And so, he committed a very violent crime and was sentenced to a long time in the penitentiary, and he should not be out.”
The department regulations allow for medical furloughs to be revoked if the medical condition “should improve to the extranet that he or she no longer meets the criteria by which he or she was released.”
But Rich said corrections officials have not responded to her inquiries about whether they have re-evaluated Kraft’s condition.
Records show that after Kraft got the furlough, the Board of Pardons and Paroles in August 2019 rejected his bid for permanent parole.
Gibson said she does not understand why the prison system could release a prisoner that parole board members believe does not deserve it.
“Why do we have a parole board that says ‘no’ and a prison system that says ‘yes’?” she said.