An outrageous drunk driving crime that launched a movement against illegal immigration is back in the spotlight after the repeat offender, sentenced to 25 years for killing two people, had a chance Thursday to be freed on parole.
Gustavo Reyes brought tougher immigration laws to Tennessee. He was the guy they pointed to and said we need to start deporting illegal criminals, not just give them court dates they never show up to.
Reyes is eligible for parole just five years into his 25-year sentence for the aggravated vehicular homicide of Sean and Donna Wilson, a well-loved Mount Juliet couple.
And what was so painful was that Reyes should have been deported at least eight times before he killed the Wilsons.
"This could have been avoided," said Lou Chambers, the victims' sister.
Thursday, the first concern was would he be paroled so he could be deported? That's convenient and inexpensive. But is it justice?
"I don't feel like that would be considered a punishment," said Heather Hawkins, the victims' daughter. "That's an opportunity for a criminal to be back on the streets, to come back in our country. He has got to face the punishment for the crime he committed."
With time off for good behavior, Reyes became eligible for parole consideration after serving just 21 percent of his sentence.
And his good behavior is a stretch. Reyes has had 10 disciplinary actions in jail, been caught high on drugs this year, and hasn't even taken a single self-improvement class on substance abuse.
"I'm going to tell you, in our hears it was beginning to feel like there wasn't going to be any justice," Chambers said.
But the hearing officer agreed with the victims' family, calling Reyes a danger to the community and a man who obviously hasn't reformed. He suggested Reyes serve another 5-and-a-half years, the maximum, before another parole hearing.
Gustavo Reyes was asked why he should be released. He said because he has a daughter, his mother is sick and he asks the family's forgiveness. It was a very brief plea for freedom.
Of course the denial isn't final until it gets four parole board votes.
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