Board denies release of man convicted in 1987 murder

EAST LIVERPOOL – A man convicted in the 1987 murder of a local resident will spend at least another nine years in prison after being denied release by the Ohio Parole Board.

Robert A. Carpenter, 49, is serving a term of 15 years to life on murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery charges in the death of Kevin Burks, 24, who was lured from his grandmother’s house in the city by Carpenter and his co-defendants David Lee Hudson, Peter Martin and Billy Wayne Smith.

They drove him to a remote location in Brush Creek Township in Jefferson County, where he was tortured, stabbed and shot, then finally killed by having his throat slashed.

Carpenter, also 24 at the time, maintained during the subsequent arrest and trials that he had not taken part in Burks’ torture or murder but that he was too afraid of his cohorts to stop them or tell anyone later about what had happened.

He later turned state’s evidence against his co-defendants, resulting in a lesser sentence for Carpenter than the others received.

During a parole hearing Feb. 21, Burks’ sisters, Jackie Hicks and Jennifer Hicks, presented their reasons for why their brother’s killer should not be set free after serving 25 years.

Carpenter reportedly had been recommended for release, but the parole board can stop that release any time up to and including the day of release if “significant new information” is received.

After hearing all the information presented, which included testimony from Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin and a letter from Sheriff Fred Abdalla, the board denied Carpenter’s parole.

According to information obtained by the Morning Journal from the Ohio Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, the board reached a majority decision to detain Carpenter until Sept. 1, 2022, when he again will be eligible for parole.

“The board finds that, given the significant impact to the victim’s family and the details surrounding the offense, including the crime’s callousness and senselessness, release at this time would not further the interest of justice and would demean the seriousness of the offense,” the board wrote in its decision.

Members based their decision on two criteria: That there is substantial reason to believe Carpenter will engage in further criminal conduct if released or will not conform to the conditions of release and that there is substantial reason to believe that, due to the serious nature of the crime, releasing Carpenter into society would create “undue risk to public safety” or would not further the interest of justice or be consistent with the welfare and security of society.