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Alabama Woman Who Fatally Shot 13-Year-Old Girl in 1982, Injected Her With Drain Cleaner, Denied Parole

“She is pure evil,” Clay Crenshaw, an attorney at the Alabama Attorney General’s office, said of Judith Ann Neelley.

By Dorian Geiger
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A woman who was convicted of kidnapping and killing a 13-year-old girl more than 40 years ago has been denied parole for the second time.

The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Judith Ann Neelley’s parole on Thursday in the 1982 crime spree kidnapping and torture murder of Lisa Ann Millican, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.

In September 1982, Millican was kidnapped by Neelley and her husband Alvin Neelley from a mall parking lot in Rome, Georgia. At the time, Millican had been visiting the area with a children's center youth group, according to Law&Crime.

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She was ultimately sexually assaulted by the couple at a motel. They later handcuffed her to a tree in Little River Canyon in Alabama, where she was injected with drain cleaner multiple times and fatally shot. Her corpse was dropped off a cliff. 

“During the course of the next 24 hours, she called law enforcement three separate times to tell them that they had the corpse of a 13-year-old girl at the bottom of their canyon,” Mike O'Dell, a former prosecutor who oversaw the original case, said last week of Neelley. “She was bragging about it.”

Judith Ann Neelley mugshot.

Following Millican’s slaying, Neelley and Alvin later abducted an engaged couple, Janice Chatman and John Hancock, in Rome. Chatman was later raped, shot and killed, however, Hancock survived the ordeal and later identified the couple to investigators. They were arrested a short time later. 

Neelley was found guilty by a DeKalb County jury following a 16-day trial in 1983. At trial, her defense team had argued she’d been coerced by her spouse into participating in the deadly crime spree. The jury had recommended life in prison without the possibility of parole, however, the judge would go on to impose the death penalty on the Alabama woman. 

In 1999, Gov. Fob James commuted Neelley’s death sentence to life imprisonment, a move which still sends political shockwaves through the state. Prior to Neeley’s parole hearing last week, the state’s current Gov. Kay Ivey wrote a letter to the parole board condemning the commutation of Neeley’s sentence, asking they deny her latest bid for release.

“I believe it was a mistake for Governor James to commute Ms. Neelley’s death sentence in the first place — and certainly to do so in the way that allows Ms. Neelley the possibility of parole," Ivey wrote. "Now, every five years, the wounds of these families are reopened as they wait with bated breath for your decision."

Alvin never stood trial for the 13-year-old’s slaying. He was sentenced to life in prison in a separate case after pleading guilty to murder and aggravated assault charges. He died in prison in 2005.

Some of Chatman’s family also attended Neelley’s parole hearing, the Birmingham Times reported. Neelley, however, didn’t appear in person for Thursday’s hearing, according to the newspaper. 

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"This monster doesn't deserve a chance to be free, to be able to enjoy her family or her grandkids," Deborah Callahan, Chatman’s daughter, said. "She robbed two families of their chances of this, and she should not get to enjoy what we could not for over 40 years.”

Neelley was previously denied parole in May 2018 during her first hearing. Her next parole hearing is expected in May 2028. 

“She should have been executed 20 years ago,” Clay Crenshaw, an attorney with the Alabama Attorney General’s office, said following Neelley’s parole hearing. “She is pure evil.”

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