This Christmas all one Missouri woman wants is her mother's release from prison.
Jane Prewitt Watkins pleaded with Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons to grant clemency for her 69-year-old mother, Patty Prewitt, in a guest commentary published last week in The Kansas City Star.
Prewitt, a former PTA room mother and owner of a local hardware store, has been behind bars for more than 30 years after being convicted of killing her husband and Watkin's father, Bill Prewitt.
Watkins believes her mother is innocent and cited a "deeply flawed trial" that relied on misleading forensic testimony and "sexist attacks" on her mother's character as reasons for the conviction.
She said her mother had trusted the legal process and had rejected a plea deal that would have returned her home after just seven years, because of her innocence.
"This trust was tragically misplaced. She was sentenced to life in prison for 50 years without the possibility of parole. It has been more than 32 years since I have seen my mother outside the gates of a prison," Watkins wrote in the commentary.
Since her conviction, Prewitt's case has continued to attract attention. The Midwest Innocence Project took on the case recently asking a judge to retest DNA evidence, including Prewitt's pajama bottoms, telephones, and knives from the Feb. 18, 1984 crime scene. That request was denied in May, according to the Daily Star Journal.
The case was also featured in two-hour episode of "Final Appeal" on Oxygen in 2017.
Prewitt, a mother of five, was convicted in 1985 of murdering her husband and given a life sentence, without the possibility of parole for 50 years.
Bill Prewitt was shot in his home as he slept. His wife told police at the time that she had also been attacked with a knife, according to an earlier article in The Kansas City Star.
But, her injuries did not require medical treatment and other evidence found at the scene pointed to Patty as the culprit, prosecutors said.
During her trial, men who had affairs with Patty testified that she had offered them money to kill her husband, The Star reported.
The gun used to kill Bill was also later found in the pond at the couple's home and prosecutors said prints matching her boots were found in the pond bed.
Circuit Judge Robert L. Koffman pointed to the evidence against Patty in the decision to deny the request for DNA testing earlier this year.
“It is this court’s opinion that one of the reasons that the jury found Ms. Prewitt guilty was because she was caught in so many lies,” Koffman said, according to the Daily Journal Star.
Watkins, however, described the conviction as a "double tragedy" that "orphaned all of us" and said the couple's children were forced to lead their lives without both parents.
"We missed her being with us as we graduated, fell in love, got married, had children, got divorced, buried family members, received a cancer diagnosis, bought a house, got remarried, became a grandparent, celebrated and suffered anything and everything," Watkins wrote.
She believes the conviction was an injustice and is asking the governor to grant her mom, who she said has been a model prisoner behind bars, clemency in the case. Otherwise, it will be at least 18 years before she's eligible for parole.
"She has taken advantage of every educational and training opportunity available to her," she wrote. "Despite the brutalities of prison, she, almost miraculously, remains ever hopeful."
[Photo: Associated Press/Whitney Curtis]
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