ATLANTA — The Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole has started the process to potentially grant parole to a convicted murderer. The board has made a “tentative” grant in the case of Robert Anthony Wise, who confessed to and was convicted of murdering Kay Jean Dunn.
On April 10, 1993, the Smyrna woman was waiting for a bus when Wise and his half-brother, Lonnie Brown kidnapped, beat, sexually assaulted and choked her to death with a dog chain. In the early morning hours of April 11, 1993, the pair then dumped her lifeless body in a rural area in South Cobb County. Wise pleaded guilty to murder and kidnapping on January 5, 1994 and was sentenced to two life sentences.
The board’s decision to possibly release Wise first to a Georgia Department of Corrections work-release program and then potentially grant him parole is devastating news to Dunn’s family. In a letter to the board, Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds vehemently objected to his release.
“Needless to say, this was a heinous, unmitigated, cold-blooded killing of a young woman who did absolutely nothing to warrant any such attack. I would respectfully ask the Board to reconsider any form of release to this defendant. He simply does not deserve it. He and his co-defendant are nothing but cold-blooded murderers and they do not deserve any form of leniency from this Board.”
In 1994, when Wise was sentenced, Georgia lawmakers who set the eligibility for parole required offenders given life sentences to serve seven years before they could become eligible for parole. The statute was changed in 1995, increasing the time to 14 years before becoming eligible for parole. Then it was changed again in 2006 to a minimum of 30 years before an offender given a life sentence could become eligible for parole.
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Information Channel 2 investigative reporter Wendy Halloran obtained from the Board of Pardons and Parole reveal Wise was up for parole six times beginning in 2000 prior to his latest bid in 2018. Each time, parole was denied.
“In 2000, the Board denied parole at that time. Subsequently because the board must provide meaningful consideration and cannot simply deny parole and not provide further consideration, the offender was considered and denied again five times,” wrote Steve Hayes.
Dunn’s family was notified, as was the Cobb County District Attorney who prosecuted the case. Dunn’s nephew, Mike Bentheimer, was just 6 years old when his aunt was murdered. He said he knew something bad happened to his aunt when he was young and said he learned more about it as he got older.
He spoke via FaceTime from Nashville about what this has done to his family.
“Please God, don’t let him out, my family can’t take it,” Bentheimer said. He went on to say that no one in his family can talk about it, and now that he’s on the verge of turning 30 years old, he wants to ensure her killers never return to society.
He had this to say about Wise possibly being paroled: “He didn’t just take my aunt’s life. He kind of wrecked our family in a way.” He said his family has to keep his grandfather, Kay’s father, in the dark when it comes to his possibly being freed for time served. “We can’t even tell my grandfather about any of this because it would kill him.”
He has fond memories of the aunt he said he called “Aunt Kay.” He said she loved to garden and make pottery and taught him how to play soccer. He said she taught him how to water plants and they played video games together. “She treated me like I was her own, she didn’t have any children.”
Meanwhile, Reynolds said he’s not against the concept of parole and admits the parole board has a very difficult job to do. But in regards to the 25 years Wise has already served, he said, “It’s just not long enough.”
Brown, Wise’s half-brother, is also eligible for parole in April 2020. Reynolds said, “I will tell you without any hesitation, in the event the board considers him for parole, then I’ll be just as vehement and adamant that they keep him as well. The price they’re paying now has not been paid fully.”
Bentheimer shared the same sentiment and vowed to fight any form of release on behalf of his Aunt Kay. “I will move heaven and earth to make sure neither of these people see the light of day again.”
Now that Wise has been given a “tentative” grant for a work-release program as a precondition for parole, there’s a 90-day period in which the board will consider any information it receives before reaching a final decision. The 90-day period in this case ends on October 23. No decision will be made until after that date. Wise remains incarcerated at the Coffee Correctional Facility, a private, medium-security prison in Nicholls, which is owned and operated by CoreCivic under a contract with the Georgia Department of Corrections.
Cox Media Group