STRONGSVILLE, Ohio — Three decades after two University of Akron students were kidnapped, raped, tortured and eventually murdered, the family of one of the women said they were shocked to learn a new state law could mean one of the men convicted in the murders could be getting a second chance at freedom.
Senate Bill 256 which went into effect last spring gives teens convicted of crimes the opportunity for parole after serving between 18 and 30 years in prison depending on their crimes.
It's a law Dawn McCreery's family knew nothing about until last summer when they received a letter in the mail telling them one of McCreery's killers, Clint Dickens, would be eligible for parole.
"That’s my biggest concern, it’s just a blindside," said Rob McCreery. He was 17 years old, the same age as Dickens, when his sister was killed.
"You have to think about that night and what she went through," said McCreery as he sat in front of pictures of his sister spread out on a dining room table.
Dawn McCreery and fellow University of Akron student Wendy Offredo were murdered in September 1986.
McCreery's family thought they'd be able to bury the horrors of what happened to the 20-year-old when Richard Cooey was put to death for the murders in 2008.
"We thought we’d never have to deal with this again," said Rob McCreery.
After all, he reasoned, Dickens was sentenced to 95 years to life in prison for the crimes.
Then came that letter, telling the family that SB 256 meant Dickens would be eligible for parole early next year.
It was a shock to McCreery's father.
"I think it’s a bunch of bullcrap myself," said Bob McCreery.
The family now worries they'll have to re-live the pain of what happened every time Dickens is eligible to get out of prison.
"It’s like ripping off a band-aid, going through it all again," said McCreey's cousin Kathy Miska.
State Senator Nathan Manning from Lorain County co-sponsored SB 256.
His office didn't respond to a request for an interview Monday.
But in April, when News 5 first reported on concerns about the bill, Manning's office sent a statement saying, in part, "In no way does this new law guarantee release for offenders, only an opportunity for parole if they can show that they are truly rehabilitated.”
But it's little comfort to McCreery's family.
They're angry a convicted killer will now get the opportunity his victims never received.
"They didn’t get to plead their case," said Rob McCreery. "They didn’t get to ask for a second chance."
The family now hopes lawmakers will re-visit the issue and spare others in their shoes the pain of reliving a horror that no amount of time can heal.
"If they decide they’re going to let him out, I think what should happen is whoever wrote this bill, they go serve the rest of time," said Bob McCreery.