Upcoming Parole Hearing for Judith Ann Neelley

Judith Ann Neelley is set for a parole hearing later this month, meaning the woman convicted of killing a child four decades ago could have a chance at leaving Alabama.

The 59-year-old is set to go before the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles on May 25.

Lisa Ann Millican, 13, was abducted from a shopping mall in Rome, Ga., in September 1982 by Neelley and her husband, Alvin Neelley. Judith Ann Neelley was later found guilty of the rape and murder of Lisa. After years of fighting for a shot at freedom, Neelley was first set for a parole hearing in May 2018; but, her lawyer at the time said she wanted to waive the hearing.

Neelley wrote in a letter, obtained exclusively by AL.com at the time, that she made the decision after “much prayer and discussions with my children.”

The group Victims of Crime and Leniency (VOCAL) asked the board to go forward with the hearing anyway, saying the Millican family should have the opportunity to be heard.

The hearing happened in May 2018, and the board deliberated for just one minute before denying parole. Several spoke at the hearing, including members of the victim’s family and the district attorney who prosecuted Neelley.

“I’ve been prosecuting for 38 years,” former district attorney Mike O’Dell told the board. “I’ve probably prosecuted over 200 murder defendants. I have never prosecuted one other defendant who murdered for sheer sport. She loved killing.”

Even if Neelley is granted parole by the three-member board later this month, she will not walk out of Alabama’s Julia Tutwiler Prison as a free woman. Georgia has a detainer warrant pending for Neelley for a consecutive life sentence in a 1999 kidnapping case — meaning that, if released from Tutwiler, authorities in Georgia would likely arrest Neelley and take her to a Georgia state prison.

She pleaded guilty Georgia for the murder of 22-year-old Janice Chatman, also of Rome, Ga. In that case, she pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against her husband. Alvin Neelley died in prison in Georgia in 2005.

Neelley was originally sentenced to death in Lisa’s death, but her sentence was commuted to life in prison by former Alabama Gov. Fob James before he left office in 1999.

She is the only death row inmate in Alabama history to be granted commutation.

But the former governor’s order didn’t do what he planned, he said later. James’ order did not specify whether Neelley would be eligible for parole. The legislature changed state law in 2003 specifically to block Neelley from the possibility of parole, but a federal judge years later ruled that law unconstitutional.

So, after 19 years of legal battles, the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles set Neelley for her first parole hearing in 2018. The Millican family protested and asked people to write letters to the board asking that Neelley not be granted parole.

In a crime that shocked Alabama almost 41 years ago, the couple held 13-year-old Lisa captive and brutalized her, according to court records, and Alvin Neelley raped the girl several times. Three days after the abduction, Judith Ann Neelley handcuffed Lisa to a tree at Little River Canyon in Alabama’s DeKalb County and used a needle and syringe to inject her repeatedly with drain cleaner. When that failed to kill the young girl, she shot her and pushed her body into the canyon.

An Alabama jury convicted Neelley of capital murder and recommended a sentence of life without parole, but the judge sentenced her to death.



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