A 58-year-old woman who was jailed last year when prison officials discovered she never served a manslaughter sentence imposed 16 years ago was set free Friday.
"Life is going to be good," Loretta Randley said. "I'm going to find me a church, and I'm going to get in that church, and I'm going to serve God."Randley was sentenced in 1981 to eight years in prison for shooting her boyfriend to death. But because of a bureaucratic mix-up, no one ever arrived to take her away. She continued to live quietly at home and never hid from the law.
Finally, a tip led prison officials to the forgotten convict's door in May 1997, and Randley had been serving time ever since.
On Friday, Randley's sentence was commuted by a state clemency board to time served after her lawyer argued that she had essentially served probation at home all those years.
"She never left the jurisdiction," Stacey Dougan said. "Indeed, she lived an exemplary life for those 16 years, dedicating herself to raising five grandchildren."
Prosecutors had argued that despite the mix-up, Randley had a duty to turn herself in. But her lawyer said Randley's conviction was not fair since evidence of sexual abuse at the hands of the victim should have been introduced as a defense at her trial.
After being convicted of shooting Harman Delay Pouter, Rand-ley was released on bail pending an appeal. The appeal was denied in 1982.
However, the letter notifying Randley that she should go to jail went to the wrong address. So for the next 16 years she raised her children, helped raise her grandchildren, went to church and spent many hours sitting on her front porch. Her daughter even worked as a dispatcher for the police.
Asked about why she never turned herself in, Randley said, "I thought about it occasionally, but life goes on. I had to raise five grandchildren. You mostly concentrate on that."
In June, a judge who heard evidence that Randley was abused by Pouter reduced her sentence to four years. Because of the time she had already served and time off for good behavior, she would have been set free in 1999.
"As far as taking someone's life, I regret it every day," she said.