Montgomery, AL -- Nov. 28, 2000 -- A child killer mistakenly released from an Alabama prison in 1982 and returned after 15 years of freedom in New York should get parole, his wife told the state Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday.
Johnnie Johnson, chairman of the Parole Board, said the board will announce decision Monday.
William Schank, 46, convicted in 1975 of beating 1-year-old Dana Louise Smith of Tuscaloosa to death with his fists, was an active and productive citizen, said his wife, Rita Schank of Forestville, N.Y.
"My husband has proven for 15 years he is a good man," said Ms. Schank, a mental health worker.
Schank's possible parole drew strong opposition, however, from authorities in Tuscaloosa and from Betty Louise Smith, the tearful mother of the slain child, who said Monday's hearing was "like pulling a scab off a sore."
Tuscaloosa County District Attorney Tommy Smith told the Parole Board he is opposed to Schank's release "now or ever" since the crime today would be capital murder and could draw the death penalty.
"He beat her to death with his bare hands," Smith said.
Schank fled to New York after his mistaken release in 1982 but was returned to prison in Alabama in 1997 after a lengthy legal battle.
Schank's 1982 release came after he had completed sentences for several previous burglaries, but "he never started this (murder) sentence as far as the Department of Corrections is concerned until 1997" and has served less than four years of it, Smith said.
Schank's lawyer, Ron Wise of Montgomery, said the Department of Corrections, in line with a judge's order, has credited Schank with serving the 15 years he was free in New York, since his release wasn't his fault.
Smith said Schank is "trying to take advantage of a technicality" and hasn't "served his time in this case."
The slain child's mother told the board, "Justice has to be served, and there is no justice here right now. I have a 1-year-old who will never get to be any older."
Schank wound up hitting Dana repeatedly and wound up throwing her on the floor, on the bed, into a dresser and dropping her outside. Dana had over 100 bruises. Her internal organs were torn loose. She slowly bled to death. Schank was sent to prison on the murder charge and seven other felony charges. He served the time for the other cases and was inadvertently set free in August 1982 because the prison did not realize he was supposed to begin serving the murder conviction.
Realizing the error Schank fled to New York state to live with family.
Officials fought for 15 years to have him returned to Alabama to serve the life sentence in 1997. They succeeded and he was finally locked up in Alabama.
However Schank is being credited with time served for the 15 years he spent in New York as a free man. That entitles him to possible parole. But Schank has only served four years on the murder charge.
Dec. 4, 2000 -- William Schank will remain in jail. He was denied parole and won't come up again for parole consideration until November 2003.

60 Minutes - 1997

Transcripts of "60 Minutes" cost $8.00 per program. Following is a list of subjects covered during 1997:
August 10, 1997
Untouchable? (Bill Schank walks the streets of New York freely after erroneous release from an Alabama prison despite conviction for murder)



Story Descriptions Copyright 1997, Burrelle's Information Services. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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