Parole Board Frees Murderers

Deborah Scribner, mother-in-law from hell

by Kerry Dougherty

In 2012, Debra Scribner, 58, was convicted of first degree murder, conspiracy to commit first degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a murder in connection with the shooting death of her son-in-law Eric Wynn in Halifax County.

She was sentenced to 23 years in prison plus 6 months.

That was eight short years ago.

Scribner’s now 66, back at home on Virginia’s Southside and prosecutors say neighbors report seeing her relaxing in her yard.

This felon was freed earlier this month by Gov. Ralph Northam’s parole board which is breathlessly throwing open cell doors all over the commonwealth during this pandemic.

State officials want you to believe they are releasing only non-violent criminals and those with less than one year to serve on their sentences.

Debra Scribner is proof that this is not true.

In 2011 she helped mastermind a plot to kill her son-in-law. Her 15-year-old grandson was the trigger man, but Scribner helped him and her daughter hide the corpse and burn the evidence. According to news reports at the time, the women urged the teenager to do the killing because, as a juvenile, he’d be treated leniently.

So eager was the parole board to spring Scribner, that it neglected to give prosecutors the required 21-day written notice of its decision. It appears the board also failed to notify the victim’s family, another legal requirement.

On Monday, Halifax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Q. Martin wrote to the chair of the parole board, objecting to Scribner’s release. She asked the board to reconsider its decision.

Martin says the letter she received from the parole board notifying her that Scribner was being paroled was dated April 6th. By then, Scribner was out of prison. Martin had no time to enlighten board members with facts that would have argued against the release.

When I spoke with Martin yesterday I asked what she would have told the parole board had she been given adequate notice. She emailed this response:

I would want them to understand that Dylan Wynn was fourteen years old when he first heard his mother Connie Wynn and his grandmother Debra Scribner discuss killing his father Eric Wynn. He heard them saying it was close to the time to do something. He heard them say they would have to get someone else to do it. He heard his mother say to Scribner, “I don’t believe this will work . . . I can’t come up with that kind of money.”

In the months prior to the murder… they discussed who might be hired for a hit. They discussed the expense of “professional services.” Around the same time, Scribner delivered a snub nose .38 — the murder weapon — to 15-year-old Dylan and his mother. Dylan hid the gun in his room. On the night of the murder, Dylan’s mother told him she could take no more and that they might kill him that night. Dylan went to bed that night with the gun under his pillow. His mother shook him awake and whispered that his father was asleep. She asked if he was sure he could do what they had planned. He said he could. Dylan approached his sleeping father and shot him in the head.

I would want the Parole Board to know that the plan, which Scribner assisted in forming, was for Dylan’s mother to call Scribner after the murder.

She told Scribner on that call, “It’s done, you need to come up here.” Scribner said she was on her way. When Scribner arrived, the three moved Eric’s body from the blood-soaked sofa where he had been shot to a rug; covered him with a blanket; and dragged him out of the house and into a van. Dylan and his mother drove the van across the yard to a well. The three then slid Eric’s body out of the van and into the well. Eric’s body got stuck at the top of the well. While Scribner and his mother shined a light down into the well, Dylan climbed inside to move his father’s body so it would fall to the bottom. The three then cleaned up the living room and removed the sofa, and ultimately burned it in the yard. A few days after the murder, they had a barbeque at the same house…

I would want the Board to understand that Scribner has never taken accountability for what she did to Eric Wynn, Eric’s family and to Dylan. She has always claimed that she helped clean up the crime but denied having planned it. The Board feeds this lie when they justify her release based on the fact she was not present for the crime. She helped plan the murder and was convicted as a principal to the crime. Her absence for the moment of his death does not make her less guilty of premeditated murder.

The Board should know that Scribner has returned to the community where the Wynn family lives, where Dylan and his three brothers live. They should know that Scribner has devastated these boys’ lives, and her return to their community is kick in the gut. They should know that my community is afraid. They are afraid of who they will let out next. The Board should know that others may be appropriate for geriatric parole, but not a murderer who has spent less than 10 years in prison and not Debra Scribner.

A grandmother planning for her grandson to kill his own father and supplying him with the murder weapon? Monstrous.

Parole was abolished in 1995 as a part of then-Gov. George Allen’s Truth in Sentencing initiative. The law requires that a felon serve at least 85% of his or her sentence before being considered for parole.

Loopholes include geriatric releases for inmates who are 65 or older and have served five years of their sentences or who are 60 years old, having served 10.

Scribner’s case was labeled “geriatric.” How convenient. Since she committed her crimes at the advanced age of 58, Scribner found herself eligible for parole a mere seven years later.

When I talked to him yesterday, former Gov. George Allen said the Scribner case and several others are an alarming sign that Virginia is returning to “the bad old days of a dishonest, lenient parole system.”

Allen noted that while geriatric release is available, it is not mandatory. Especially not for someone who hasn’t served even half of her sentence.

“This to me is an abuse of the geriatric class,” the former governor said.

“They’re not even following Virginia law,” Allen added, referring to the 21-day notice to prosecutors and the heads up that is supposed to be given to victims’ families.

The parole board may have been too busy freeing felons to follow the letter of the law. According to The Virginian-Pilot, in March of 2019 only seven prisoners were granted parole. Last month there were 96 releases, a 1,271% increase.

The freeing frenzy included some of the commonwealth’s most violent criminals, including several convicted of capital murder.

The most notorious criminal to be approved for parole was cop killer Vincent Martin, who ambushed Richmond Patrolman Michael Connors, 23, during a routine traffic stop in 1979.

When law enforcement protested Martin’s parole approval last week, the parole board indignantly replied that their decision was irreversible and had nothing to do with the COVID-19 virus. The board claimed that Martin was sprung because he’d been sentenced prior to the 1995 no-parole legislation.

Cop killers shouldn’t be returned to society. Neither should sociopaths.

Pandemic or not.

This post was published originally at

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21 responses to “Parole Board Frees Murderers”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    If these are the facts, I don’t understand it and I don’t like it.

    Dick – would you be willing to explain how parole boards are appointed, if their decisions can be overturned and/or parole board members removed or new ones appointed?

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner Knock yourself out. Board appointed by His Excellency and serves at the pleasure…. Like the ABC Board, the Parole Board has been considered a patronage plum for a long time. The chair’s salary is about $138,000…..Cue DJ for a rant about the Byrd Machine….

  2. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Time for a new Parole Board. Maybe some folks with better judgement can be found.

  3. Nancy_Naive Avatar

    Yeah, but she’s white and this is Virginia. In addition, she served 5 at 65 and that’s the required time to a geriatric parole. Finally, it’s not like she was having breakfast at the Cracker Barrel, and with her butter knife, slashed the throat of someone at the table behind her. She doesn’t pose a continuing threat to society, or anyone other than a son-in-law, so given her daughter is still in prison, then no one is in danger.

    Then, of course, we only have a prosecutor’s word that the administrative details weren’t followed. Geez, that’s reliable.

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead V

      I here you. I recognize the logic to your thinking. Part of me can see your point of view. But then I think about this. What do we say to the memory of Eric Wynn? How should we explain this to Dylan Wynn?

    2. warrenhollowbooks Avatar

      “Yeah, but she’s white and this is Virginia.”

      I assume that is a joke . . .
      Or I am observing a lack of societal and political awareness that borders on the hermit . .

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    The other say, I had asked Dick how could people in prison be more susceptible to the virus that others and he responded that at least some
    of the prisons actually were “dorms” not “cells” which made me feel ignorant – because I was really.

    So then I wonder if folks like this women was in a cell or a dorm and if she is in a cell ….

    so… are any of the prisoners in cells getting the virus? Is it all dorms?

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      This woman was in a dormitory facility–Central Virginia Correctional Unit in Chesterfield–which has had up to 49 offenders test positive. There are two celled facilities in which inmates have tested positive–the Women’s prison in Goochland and Sussex II.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    She’s in prison for Murder and lives in a dorm?

    Man, am I OUT OF TOUCH!

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      The offense for which an inmate was convicted is only one factor that goes into determining the security level of an offender and in what sort of facility that offender is placed. The other factors are escape risk, danger to staff and other offenders, and behavior while in prison.

      By the way, generally, offenders, particularly older ones, do not like dormitory facilities. There is too much noise and less privacy.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Dick – so what percentage of our prisons are dorms and what percentage are cell-blocks?

        Do truly violent felons stay in cells -hopefully?

        In a place like Red Onion, Brushy Mountain – all cellblocks?

        1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
          Dick Hall-Sizemore

          Of the men’s facilities, there are 19 dormitory facilities, 13 celled, and 1 combination. But the dorm facilities include the smaller ones. About 60 percent of the male offenders are housed in cell facilities. For the women, the story is about the same. There 3 dorm facilities and 2 with cells, but about two-thirds of the female offenders are in cells.

          By “truly violent”, if you mean those inmates who pose the biggest security threat, yes, they are in cells. Red Onion and Wallens Ridge, especially Red Onion, are used to house the worst ones.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            So is it so that the ones in cells are not paroled and most of the paroled are the ones that are in the dorms?

            Or is that too simplistic?

            And you say that the parole board are law enforcement types?

        2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
          Dick Hall-Sizemore

          That is too simplistic. Only those inmates whose offenses were committed before Jan. 1, 1995 are eligible for parole. That is a fairly small percentage of the prison population. Those offenders are housed in both types of facilities–dorms and cells–depending on their records. Accordingly, those not eligible for parole are housed in both types of facilities.

          No, I did not mean that the members of the Parole Board are law enforcement types. The Parole Board, as an agency, employs several part-time investigators to help it gather and analyze records and information regarding offenders who are eligible for parole. These investigators also spend a lot of time investigating the records of persons the Governor may be considering for a pardon. These investigators are retired law enforcement officers. For example, one of them was a high ranking officer in the State Police.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            re: ” Only those inmates whose offenses were committed before Jan. 1, 1995 are eligible for parole. ”

            you probably covered this before and I do plead ignorance but why is that? And anyone after that date not eligible no matter what?

  6. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    There is no evidence at all that this woman is a sociopath. If she were, she would not have been housed in a minimum security prison.

    The boy who did the actual shooting claimed that his father was abusive. I do not how much evidence of that claim, if any, was presented at trial. I like to think that a teenager would not shoot his sleeping father for any other reason. No other motive, such as a financial one, has been reported.

    The woman was eligible for geriatric release. The Parole Board judged that she would not be a danger to society if released. The Parole Board was one of the agencies for which I was the analyst at DPB. I know that it has several investigators, all of whom are retired law enforcement officers. The Board does not take lightly releasing offenders convicted of violent crimes.

    The offender convicted of killing a policeman had served 40 years. He had been a model inmate. The Parole Board found that there had been conflicting statements from the other defendants convicted along with him, all of whom had gotten lighter sentences and have been released.

    As usual, Kerry is being misleading in order to be inflammatory. The Board did not release Martin just because his crime was committed before 1995, as she implied. That was the criteria that made him eligible for parole. If the Parole Board released everyone whose crime was committed before 1995, there would be no one left in prison eligible for parole.

    To repeat, the Parole Board relies on retired law enforcement officers to investigate cases before making its decisions, especially those that are likely to be controversial. Finally, the corrections system is supposed to be rehabilitative and not just for retribution.

    1. CrazyJD Avatar

      I would take only slight issue some of your post, particularly your last sentence. I think it’s more accurate to say the corrections system is supposed to be rehabilitative IF it’s certain that the person will eventually get out of jail and we will have a problem if we don’t rehabilitate. And I think you bypassed one of the most important purposes of the corrections system: specific deterrence. While I have never been convinced of the general deterrent nature of jail or prison (see capital punishment), I am certainly convinced of the specific deterrence in the individual case. A monster in the teenage years and early 20s needs to be deterred for a good long time for public safety reasons. But most statistical analyses of recidivism rates show that recidivism decreases sharply with age. The chances of Martin recidivating are probably close to nil, particularly because he apparently did not act out in prison.

      Aging-out would not seem to apply with the Scribner woman since her crime was committed late in her 50s, negating any inference that she aged out of her antisocial tendencies.

      That Martin has been rehabilitated in the 40 years would appear to be unquestioned. In fact, it would appear that he could actually make a positive contribution to society. That leaves us with retribution as the only remaining reason for his continued incarceration. On balance, I agree with you on Martin; I’m not so sure about Scribner. They can release her under the law, but perhaps the law should be modified.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I do not have any problem with the release of Scribner. According to an account in the local newspaper at the time of her trial, she had a good reputation in the community, apparently did not have any prior record, and, most importantly, her son-in-law was a “chronic wife abuser”. That does not excuse murdering him, but it does help explain it and indicate that she is likely not a threat to murder or harm anyone else. In other words, she is not the sociopath that Kerry Doughtery so recklessly labeled her.

  7. Nancy_Naive Avatar

    Hey Kerry, try this on for size. Because of “tough on crime” laws on parole, our prisons are full — cheap bastards, build more prisons — and as such convicted violent murders are being housed in local jails, sometimes up to 2 years.

    Now, I know to you it’s “Meh, jail, prison, what’s the difference?”

    Ah, never mind.

  8. CrazyJD Avatar

    Nancy, It’s clear that you love to engage in snarky, sarcsastic comments, but because of that format, your message often gets obscured. For example it’s not clear from your comments whether you think local jails are easier or harder than prison, or why either way, or even what you think at all about the two kinds of incarceration. Your final sentence saying that it makes no difference to Kerry obscures whether it makes a difference to you, and why. Your message just winds up being annoying and uninformative.

    It’s obvious that you’re bright and engaged, but you should consider coming off the snark. I know I got on you in a snarky way myself, partly on the theory that turnabout is fair play. But let’s try to upgrade our comments together, shall we?

  9. warrenhollowbooks Avatar

    “Finally, the corrections system is supposed to be rehabilitative and not just for retribution.”
    Hmmmm . . .
    Retribution is a loaded term . . . I prefer justice

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