A convicted child murderer is appearing before the parole board Thursday. Now his victim's family is anxiously waiting to learn his fate.
Shirley West says the death of her granddaughter, Sara, is always on her mind. Thursday Sara's killer, Billy Joe Shafer, will go up for his first parole hearing since Sara's murder on Valentine's Day in 1993.
"Its been a long time coming and its been awfully rough at times and you think some times you can't get through the day and you manage to do it," says Shirley West.
Shafer was found guilty of aggravated murder. Shirley says Shafer, tortured, disemboweled and killed five-year-old Sara while he was supposed to be babysitting her. Since 2004, Shirley West and Sara's mother, Tracy Hickman, have collected more than 33,000 signatures in a petition to keep Shafer behind bars. Shirley says when she presented the petition to the parole board they were astounded by the amount of signatures. But the decision now rests in their hands.
"I feel in my heart and soul I have done everything possibly to do to help keep him in there and I hope I was a stumbling block in his path to get out and as long as I live, I will be a stumbling path in his way to get out," tells Shirley West.
If denied parole, Billy could be up for parole again within ten years. Shirley says she wants to see him stay behind bars not just for her family's safety. but to protect his future victims.
"A leopard doesn't really change his spots, he just covers them up. But his spots are still there and I hope the parole board can see through that and see his spots aren't going to change and keep him in there forever," tells West.
The parole board should make the final decision within seven days. If Shafer is paroled, Shirley and the West family will have 30 days before Shafer is released to prepare. If he is denied parole Shirley says she will not be able to continue getting signatures due to health reasons. But family members and friends say they will keep up the fight to keep Shafer behind bars.