A dying inmate, paroled by Iowa’s parole board on Tuesday because she has inoperable breast cancer, is making once again historic headlines. As a 14-year-old, Kristina Joy Fetters was convicted of having killed her 73-year-old great-aunt Arlene Klehm and was sentenced to life without parole. “Once the state's youngest inmate serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, Fetters will be the first Iowa inmate released because of last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made mandatory life sentences for juveniles unconstitutional,” reported WFMY on Dec. 4, 2013.
In 1995, Kristina Joy Fetters, who is today 33 years old and dying of terminal breast cancer, was only 14 years old when she escaped a mental institution for juveniles in Des Moines with another girl. Only hours after her escape, Kristina stabbed her 73-year-old great aunt Arlene Klehm to death while attempting to rob her house in Polk County, Iowa. During Kristina Joy Fetter’s trial, her attorney’s denied that the 14-year-old killed her aunt because she wanted to take jewelry and money and tried to mount an insanity defense.
“Jurors found that Fetters hit Klehm on the head with an iron skillet and stabbed her at least five times. At 15, Fetters became Iowa's youngest inmate serving a life sentence.”
While Kristina Joy Fetters became Iowa’s youngest inmate serving a life sentence, she is today becoming Iowa's first paroled dying inmate.
Since September, the inmate, who has been in prison for the past 18 years, has been in poor health and doctors in Iowa City diagnosed her with stage four inoperable breast cancer.
On Tuesday, Iowa’s state parole board granted a “compassionate release” to 33-year-old Kristina Joy Fetters and decided that the dying inmate will be paroled and released to a central Iowa hospice facility where she will be appointed a parole officer and will be barred from going anywhere but the hospice facility.
Reactions to the dying inmate’s parole range from gratitude by Kristina Joy Fetters’ family to the concern expressed by one of the board members for the “public’s safety” of a convicted killer.
Darcy Olson, the paroled dying inmate’s aunt commented that “it's now time for my family to have closure. Kris’ impending death cannot be denied, and while there has been negative comments, we believe, as the victims, that this family has suffered enough."