DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A dying Iowa inmate who was 15 when she entered prison will spend her final days in a hospice facility, a state board ruled Tuesday in granting her unprecedented parole.
The Iowa Parole Board’s decision for Kristina Fetters, 33, means she is the first inmate in the state sentenced to life in prison as a juvenile to be released after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year.
The high court said life sentences without parole are unconstitutional for juveniles, a ruling that’s positioned 38 Iowa inmates to possible resentencing with a chance at parole.
The board said at the meeting that Fetters, who was diagnosed in September with inoperable Stage 4 breast cancer, will be sent to Hospice Care of Central Iowa, The Des Moines Register reported (
Fetters’ attorney said his client wants to die outside prison walls, and hospice was the hoped-for outcome for her family and friends.
At the meeting, board members debated whether hospice care was the best option after a state oncologist said Fetters had responded to hormone therapy treatment and cancer cells in her bones may have shrunk. But the doctor said her condition likely remains incurable.
Board chair Jason Carlstrom, who initially didn’t support Fetters’ release, considered that medical update.
“I would recommend or throw out to the board that perhaps we should wait a little while to see what happens with the treatment for Ms. Fetters,” he said. “Her response to treatment may change the kind of re-entry plans that need to be made for her.”
Board member Doris Kelley disagreed and said the doctor agreed Fetters would get better care in a hospice facility than the Mitchellville women’s prison.
The newspaper reported that the board would revisit the case if Fetters’ condition ever improved to the point that she could leave the facility.
A jury convicted Fetters of first-degree murder in 1995 in the death of her great-aunt, Arlene Klehm, 73. Klehm died in 1994 after Fetters hit her on the head with an iron skillet and stabbed her at least five times.
Fetters was 15 when she entered prison, making her at the time the youngest inmate facing a life sentence in the state’s correctional system.
Polk County District Court Judge Douglas Staskal resentenced Fetters last month to make parole possible. He recommended the parole board release Fetters immediately because of her declining health.
Department of Corrections spokesman Fred Scaletta told the newspaper Fetters will likely be paroled within the next two weeks. She was at an Iowa City hospital on Monday due to severe pain.
Information from: The Des Moines Register,
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