A man paroled earlier this year after serving 18 years in prison for the double murder of his father and stepmother was arrested last week for driving under the influence. Now the family of one of his victims is questioning why the Parole Board decided to release him in the first place.
At the age of 17, James Williams III was sentenced in 2005 to two consecutive life sentences for the fatal shooting of his father, James Jr., and stepmother, Cindy Lassiter Mangum, in 2001.
A 2021 U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled that those who were juveniles should be eligible for parole. The Parole Board decided in April of this year, despite pushback from Mangum’s family and lawmakers, to grant Williams’ release.
“The family wants to know if the Mississippi State Parole board still feels that the community is better served to have James Williams in the community drinking and driving than be incarcerated for the double murders that he is guilty of committing,” her family said in a Thursday statement.
The Rankin County Sheriff’s Department confirmed Williams, now 38, was arrested Oct. 20 for a first offense DUI and released the next day on bond.
While nobody was injured while Williams allegedly drove while intoxicated, Mangum’s family said his arrest is an opportunity for the Parole Board to see that it made a mistake, and that mistake could have cost others their lives.
He is expected to appear before the Parole Board about whether the DUI arrest violated his parole. Mangum’s family hopes the board will return Williams to prison.
A representative from the Parole Board was not immediately available for comment Friday morning. A spokesperson from MDOC said any decision about Williams is up to the Parole Board.
Williams had been denied parole multiple times because of the nature of his crime and community opposition, but the current board found he was suitable for release and that there wasn’t opposition from the family, sheriff, district attorney or judge.
Mangum’s family said it wasn’t given notification to come before the Parole Board and express their opposition – a claim Chairman Jeffery Belk disputed in April after the board’s vote, saying multiple efforts were made before the hearing to contact them.
The family has also questioned whether Williams has changed while in prison. His attorney, Jake Howard, previously told Mississippi Today that Willams earned a GED and bachelor’s degree in Christian ministry and completed other educational and rehabilitation programs.