- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 16, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Board of Parole agreed Wednesday to release a 68-year-old Iowa inmate who has been imprisoned since 1974 for the killing of a man over a gambling debt.

The board approved the parole of Rasberry Williams, who was convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting death of a man outside a Waterloo pool hall. Over the decades, Williams had been a model inmate and in 1979 helped end a prison standoff in which two guards were taken hostage.

Following the recommendation of a prosecutor, prison officials and the victim’s relatives, Gov. Terry Branstad commuted Williams’ sentence last year, making him eligible for parole.

The Des Moines Register reported (https://dmreg.co/1j0MfbT ) the board met in Des Moines and interviewed Williams via video link from the North Central Correctional Facility in Rockwell City.

Before the board’s decision, Williams sought his release but said he’d accept whatever the panel chose to do.

“It’s very important to me that I be with my family,” he said.

Parole board chairman Jason Carlstrom said Williams wouldn’t be a threat if released and noted the extended process leading up to his parole.

“This is a long time in the works,” Carlstrom said.

Corrections Department spokesman Fred Scaletta said inmates typically are released two to four weeks after the board’s decisions.

Williams hopes he’ll be granted a parole that would enable him to move to Chicago, where his sister lives, said his daughter, Charletta Sudduth.

Regardless of where he lives, Sudduth said his family is grateful he’ll be able to spend time with his seven grandchildren.

“Just to have him released anywhere, that’s what we wanted,” said Sudduth, who also expressed thanks to Branstad for his commutation.

Williams fatally shot his neighbor, Lester Givhan, in July 1974 outside a pool hall after the two argued over a $30 gambling debt. Williams claimed self-defense but was convicted of first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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