NewsCovering Kentucky


Family reacts to death row inmate being commuted to life in prison

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Posted at 10:13 PM, Dec 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-14 06:39:16-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — More than being offended, many people are outraged over Governor Bevin's actions. A victim's family is speaking out because one of the men who killed their loved one, may one day get a chance at a normal life.

For Barbara Barber and her family, Jan. 13, 1983 seems like it was yesterday. "She says, well it's bad, it's real bad. I said, it's not one of the kids is it? And she said yeah."

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Joey Durrum

Joey Durrum was just 23-years-old when he, along with Joey Norman and Jacqueline Green were brutally murdered in a home in Lexington. Days later, police arrested Mitchell Willoughby and Leif Halvorsen. Barber says she didn't miss a day of the trial. "Leif Halvorsen was something in court. He mocked and joked about the condition of my nephew, the way the bullet entries were. He was shot all from the back."

Willoughby and Halvorsen were both sentenced to death. Fast forward 37 years, to when Governor Matt Bevin commuted Halvorsen's death sentence, taking him off death row. "Life in Kentucky is 20 years. He's been in there 37. What's that mean? Is he going to get out next week? Next month?" Barber said.

In the executive order, Bevin stated 'Leif has a powerful voice that needs to be heard by more people.'

Barber disagrees. "He got his psychology degree while he was in prison. Well, good for him. My nephew didn't get that chance."

Barber says their family is devastated Joey's killer could walk free. "I don't care if he spent 37 years in prison, he could spend 37 years more. And he can die an old man. I don't really want them to execute him. I want him to sit right there every day, for the rest of his life."

The other man convicted, Mitchell Willoughby remains on death row.

You can read Bevin's commutation of sentence for Halvorsen here.