Wednesday, May 24, 2023–5:50 p.m.
-John Bailey, Rome News-Tribune-
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey wrote a letter to the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles on Tuesday imploring them to deny parole for a woman convicted of kidnapping and murdering a Rome teenager in 1982.
“Please do not grant parole to Judith Ann Neelley,” Ivey wrote Tuesday. “Five years ago, I made that same request of this board and your predecessors unanimously denied parole after less than one minute of deliberation… Quite simply, Ms. Neelley should not be allowed to set foot outside of an Alabama prison.”
Neelley and her husband, Alvin Neelley, abducted 13-year-old Lisa Ann Millican from Rome’s Riverbend Mall, which was located at the current site of the Riverbend Shopping Center, on Sept. 25, 1982.
Millican was coerced into leaving the arcade and driven to a motel in Alabama, where she was held captive before being raped, injected with drain cleaner, shot and dumped into the Little River Canyon in Northeast Alabama.
“The circumstance surrounding Ms. Neelley’s murder of Lisa Ann Millican can only be described as pure evil… Other crimes have been attributed to Ms. Neelley, and they, too, can only be described as evil,” Ivey said. “Ms. Neelley was not convicted of each of these crimes. But (the parole board) should still consider her involvement in them as further reason to keep Ms. Neelley behind bars.”
It was just the beginning of a murderous multi-state crime spree for the Neelleys. The next victim was Janice Chatman, who suffered a fate similar to Millican. Alvin Neelley was convicted of her death and died in prison in 2005.
Judith Neelley was originally sentenced to death in the electric chair for the murder of Millican, but her death sentence was commuted in 1999 by then-Alabama Gov. Fob James, setting off a battle over her possible parole eligibility.
On Tuesday, Ivey weighed in on her predecessor’s actions.
“In fact, I believe it was a mistake for Governor James to commute Mrs. Neelley’s death sentence in the first place — and certainly to do so in a way that allows Ms. Neelley the possibility of parole,” Ivey wrote. “Now, every five years, the wounds of these families are reopened as they wait with bated breath for your decision.”
Once James commuted the sentence, lawmakers in 2003 passed a law that death row inmates who had their sentences commuted “shall not be eligible for a parole.”
Neelley’s attorneys filed a lawsuit challenging the statute and its retroactive application to her case. The law was ruled unconstitutional in March of 2018, leading to her first parole hearing that May. The Alabama Board of Pardons took just 55 seconds to deny her parole.
The first parole hearing occurred only two months after the 2003 statute was overturned and came as a surprise to Millican’s family.
Cassie Nicole Millican, who is married to Lisa Ann’s brother Calvin, told the Rome News-Tribune in 2018 prior to Neelley’s last parole hearing that “we were shocked. We didn’t think it would be scheduled this fast. It’s a public hearing. We want protesters.”
However, even if Neelley is granted parole, she would likely be arrested by Georgia authorities to serve her time for a consecutive life sentence in the kidnapping and killing of Chatman.
“She was more than just the victim in a terrifying story,” Cassie Millican said in 2018. “Lisa Ann Millican was a 13-year-old girl who deserved to get the chance to grow up.”