Governors Office wants to keep inmates in prison

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - One man has not talked about the murder of his wife for nearly 35 years.  Now, the man convicted of killing Norma Earhart was expected to be released from prison and her husband is talking.

Richard Earhart has tried to move on from his wife's murder in 1975.  Not only has he not discussed the incident, until now, he didn't even attend the trial of the two men accused of killing Norma.

Thirty-four years ago, Richard's wife went to a convenience store to pick up some groceries, but never returned home.  She was shot and killed by two men, one of which was Bobby Bowden.

The case State v. Bowden challenged the way the state issued life sentences in the late seventies.

"Fifteen years ago, the law changed to make life without parole really mean that. Before then, people could get out for good behavior," explained New Hanover and Pender County District Attorney Ben David.

Now, the State Supreme Court has ruled that Bowden, along with twenty other felons, can leave jail in only a matter of weeks.

"Here is a guy who murdered my wife. He is 60 years old. He's been in prison for 40 years," said Richard.  "All of a sudden they want to open the doors and let him out? How is he going to acclimate back into society? What is he going to do? He has gotten out on a technicality, what is he going to do?"

Richard said he believes the justice system is messed up, and isn't sure why someone should gain parole after being sentenced to life in prison.

Richard, like so many other family members who lost a love one, has spent the last week calling lawmakers - hoping that something could be done to stop the release.  Their efforts may have paid off.

Thursday evening, the Governor's Office released a statement voicing their concerns over the Supreme Court's ruling.  "Like most of my fellow North Carolinians, I believe life should mean life, and even if a life sentence is defined as 80 years, getting out after only 35 is simply unacceptable," the statement read.

Gov. Bev Perdue said Bowden and the other violent offenders will not be released until the new legal issues have been resolved by the courts.

"I think Governor Perdue is stepping up to the plate," said Richard. "I mean, these guys should have served their full terms."

Click here to read the entire statement

Richard had comes to term with the fact that Bowden would be released and wanted him to know of the pain he caused has not gone away.

"I'd like him to realize that he not only took away my wife, he took away the mother of my children. He shattered at least five lives," said Richard.

Richard said he blames himself for breaking his family after his wife was murdered, but he added that the early release of Bowden has started to bring his family back together.  He said that is the only good thing in this case.

Earhart is also resolved to make sure justice is served, "I will fight this until the day I die if I have to."

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