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After 40 Years, Iowa Inmate Granted Parole To Assisted Living Facility

Durrie Bouscaren
Iowa Public Radio
Rasberry Williams answers questions via closed circuit television from the Iowa Board of Parole.

Iowa inmate Rasberry Williams, 68, will be released on parole after serving nearly four decades of a life sentence for first-degree murder.

The Iowa Board of Parole issued the decision Wednesday after a 20-minute video interview with Williams and his supervisors at the North Central Correctional Facility in Rockwell City.  In 1974,  Williams shot and killed his neighbor, Lester Givhan, outside a Waterloo pool hall. Soon after, he turned himself into authorities, and maintained during trials afterwards that he acted in self-defense. 

Williams had requested to be released to live with his sister and family in  Chicago, but the Board ruled that Williams, who walks with a cane, would go to an assisted living facility in Iowa. Officials say they are discussing placement options with locations in Waterloo and Dubuque, where Williams will be near his daughter and other family members as he readjusts to civilian life. 

"I'm old, I'd like to be with my family so they can help me with that," Williams said during the interview. "As a person, a man, that's the way I want to be treated." 

Charletta Sudduth  was eight years old when her father went to prison in the late seventies. On Wednesday, she and her family drove to Des Moines to watch the interview over a closed-circuit television at the Board of Parole. 

"On the drive up here, we were recanting in the car—when he came in, the style of the day was Afros and stacks for shoes, and now we all have technology at our fingertips," Sudduth said. "As you can see, he has a beautiful, wonderful sense of humor after all these years." 

Now, Sudduth says Williams will be able see his seven grandchildren, six of whom he has not met.

Williams' parole became possible after Governor Branstad commuted his life sentence last year, saying his record in prison ‘has been extraordinary.’ In addition to mentoring other inmates, prison officials say Williams saved the life of two guards during a hostage situation at the Fort Madison prison in 1979.