A member of the state’s Board of Probation and Parole voted Friday morning to deny parole for convicted killer and rapist Earl Hill Jr.
At a hearing held Friday morning in Johnson City, Parole Board Member Yusuf Hakeem voted to deny Hill parole and not to consider the case again until 2018, the maximum amount of time allowed between hearings for a parole-eligible offender.
Hill is serving a life sentence in prison for the 1967 murder of Washington, D.C., policeman and Unicoi County native Lowell Bailey and the assault, kidnapping and rape of Bailey’s wife.
According to newspaper accounts from the time, the Baileys were in the Erwin area from their home in Maryland to visit family. On the evening of Nov. 25, 1967, Bailey and his wife went to the Beauty Spot lookout on Unaka Mountain to talk on Citizens Band radios.
It was reported that later in the evening, a car driven by Hill pulled up next to the Baileys’ car. According to newspaper accounts, as Bailey exited his car to see what Hill wanted, he was shot and killed.
Hill then forced Mrs. Bailey into his car and drove to a remote area where he assaulted, raped and shot her in the abdomen, leaving her for dead, according to reports. However, Mrs. Bailey survived the attack and was later found by two Johnson City Press newsmen in the area covering the shooting along Tenn. Highway 107 after crawling for several miles.
Eventually, Hill, who was in the Army, was arrested at Fort Stewart, Ga., and would plead guilty to the murder of Lowell Bailey and the kidnapping, assault and rape of Mrs. Bailey.
Hill, now 69, was denied parole in 1992, his first year of eligibility, and was again denied in 2006.
With Hakeem’s vote on Friday, three more votes from parole board members to deny parole are needed to keep Hill behind bars. Hill’s file will now be sent to the six other members of the state’s Board of Probation and Parole, who will review the information and vote on the matter. Four concurring votes among the parole board members — either to grant or deny parole — are needed before a decision becomes final.
According to Melissa McDonald, communications director for the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole, the voting process typically takes two to three weeks. McDonald also said board members take several items into account before voting.
“To make a parole decision, the Board considers several factors,” an email from McDonald states. “They review the offender’s file and consider the seriousness of the crime, time served, discipline received or programs completed in prison, the offender’s plans on where to live and work if released and how likely he/she is to be successful if released. They also consider the statements of people who speak in support of or in opposition to parole and the offender’s own statement.”
Among those opposed to seeing parole granted to Hill is Town of Erwin Alderman Lester Bailey, brother of Lowell Bailey.
“We are certainly happy with the parole officer’s recommendation and feel like the other members will receive the recommendation and, if that be the case, we’ll have six more years of peace,” Bailey said.
Bailey also said he is grateful for the outpouring of support in keeping Hill incarcerated. He said nearly 2,500 letters speaking out against granting Hill parole were written to the state’s Board of Probation and Parole. Bailey also said this side had “good representation” at Friday’s hearing, while no one was present to speak in favor of granting parole to Hill.
If the other members of the Board of Probation and Parole vote as Hakeem did, Bailey said Hill will have been behind bars for more than 50 years before his case is heard again.