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With the first parole hearing quickly approaching for a convicted murderer, the victim's family is rallying support from the community to keep him behind bars. WHIZ's Katie Jeffries has the story.
"He is a monster, there ain't no other way to say it, he should never get out of prison," says Danny Shafer, Billy Joe Shafer's father.
Two garbage bags sat at the West family rally as a gruesome reminder of the fate of five-year-old Sara West. On Valentine's Day in 1993, Sara West was brutality raped, tortured and murdered by then sixteen-year-old Billy Joe Shafer. He then shoved her dismembered body into two garbage bags and threw them over an embankment. Shafer is now 33-years-old and his first parole hearing is coming up in early February. The West family has been working tirelessly to gain support to have his parole denied and Sunday they held a rally at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Hall in Nashport to tell their story and get more signatures and letters for the parole board. Tears glistened off the cheeks of those in the crowd as Sara's mother, Tracy, spoke about her daughter.
"Sara never had a chance to grow up, never had a chance to go on a first date, a first love, go to the prom, graduate from high school attend college or get married and have a family of her own," tells Tracy Hickman as she held back tears.
Shirley West, Sara's grandmother, organized the rally and says she needs the community's help to keep Billy behind bars. She has a petition with more than 33,000 signatures, but needs members of the community to send letters to the parole board asking them to deny Billy's parole. Letters can be sent to the below address:
DRC Victim's Services
770 West Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43222
"I hope that he never gets out and we don't have to constantly let him have the power over us where we can't get on with our lives and we can't have closure or healing or you know, have any kind of life other than thinking about him and what he's up too and if he is in there for life maybe we can begin to have our life back again," says Shirley West.
Shirley says she holds on to the few precious memories she had with Sara such as making her favorite cookies. Sara's father says church and praying has helped him move forward in his life, but he and those at the rally cannot bear the thought of Billy Joe Shafer being released from prison.
"I would feel scared for other people, anyone that had to live around him, anybody that had to deal with him," says Kevin West.
"Oh yea, there will be nobody safe," says Danny Shafer.
"If they do that, wherever he is at, God help us all," says Shirley West.
If you would like to send in a letter to the parole board or sign the petition to keep Billy Joe Shafer in prison go to the "Block Parole" link above. There you can read more about Saras' story and print off pre-written letters to send to the parole board. All letters must be sent in by January 15th.