Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Russell Obremski: A Killer's Luck

Public Outcry

The National Rifle Association and gubernatorial candidate Denny Smith weighed in, seeking reform and pointing fingers. The last of LaVerna Lowe's children who remained in Oregon moved out of state, afraid for their lives after being so vocally adamant about Obremski never again seeing the light of day.

The CBS program 48 Hours was there to document his first free steps after almost 25 years in prison. Public outcry was intense. Danny Santos, former chairman of the parole board, was at the center of the firestorm, and gubernatorial candidate Denny Smith turned it and the three-strikes-and-you're-out initiative into his major campaign issue.

The NRA placed full-page ads in all the local newspapers, demanding reform. In fact, 16 states have now abolished parole entirely, requiring convicts to serve their entire sentences.

In March 1994, the Oregon parole board made major policy renovations, implementing a panel of two to three psychologists (instead of just one) for murderers, the most serious sex offenders, and inmates convicted under Oregon's dangerous offender statutes. The psychological examinations are now part of an overall evaluation package, not the sole determining factor in setting a release date.

In 1994, the federal government passed a crime bill, which provides financial incentives to states that enact a Truth in Sentencing statute, i.e., requiring prisoners to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences before being considered for parole. Representative Elizabeth Furst of Oregon invoked Obremski's heinous crimes to help persuade the U.S. legislature to pass this crime bill.

Obremski's sister, his only staunch and steadfast supporter said, in an interview with 48 Hours, "He was tried and convicted. Is it fair to retry him all the time?"

Conditions of his parole included checking in with his parole officer once a week for three years, no alcohol consumption, not leaving the state without permission, not owning or possessing any weapons or controlled substances.

He went to live in a halfway house in Eugene, Oregon, got a job feeding livestock on a ranch, found himself a girlfriend and a dog, went to AA meetings, did a little fishing, went to counseling sessions, and took Antabuse, a drug that makes a person violently ill if they drink any alcohol while taking it.

Obremski's parole officer Al McCann gave Obremski a 50-50 chance of making it. Sentencing Judge Lawrence Sawyer said, "There's no way to rehabilitate a man like him. He's a sociopath."


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