By Shavonne Potts
It comes down to a simple act of registering your name if you are the victim of a crime.
It’s easier said than done, if you are the victim and are told the offender will never again set foot outside prison walls. Registering wasn’t a simple act for a family whose members are left wondering why a woman was released from prison and they didn’t know.
Frank Lussier’s parents were murdered 20 years ago by a woman released from prison last week. Margaret Smith Perry, now 61, was convicted in 1987 of the murders of Alfred Leo Lussier and his wife, Georgia Smith Lussier. The couple was shot in their Kannapolis home. They were shot both in the chest and abdomen. The Lussiers’ granddaughter, Cindy, was at the home at the time of the shootings. She wrestled with Perry and ran from the home to the North Kannapolis sheriff’s substation. The woman was arrested a short time later still carrying the handgun.
Perry was sentenced to two consecutive life terms. Family members say they were told Perry would serve at least 40 years.
Frank Lussier’s daughters, Cindy and Kelly, recalled the judge telling them that Perry would not be free to walk the streets. Because of that, the family was never placed on a notification list.
Although Rowan District Attorney Bill Kenerly didn’t preside over the Lussiers’ case since he didn’t assume his position until 1991, he did explain victims’ rights.
He said the Lussiers’ case predates an important victims’ rights legislation.
In 1991, the Victims’ Rights Constitutional Amendment was enacted. Based on this amendment, victims of a crime are to be registered and notified of the change of status for an offender involved in their case.
The way the Rowan District Attorney’s Office works with victims, Kenerly said, is, “If the victim wants to be notified, we send their names to the Department of Correction.”
“I believe if we’d received notification, we would certainly have tracked the family down,” Kenerly said.
Victim’s of crimes register with the N.C. Department of Correction Office of Victim Services. The N.C. Post Release Supervision and Parole Commission notifies certain entities, including the media, of a person’s release.
“In order for any victim to be notified of any offenders whereabouts they would have to be registered,” said Patsy Joyner, an official with the Commission.
The registration system is automated, Joyner said. Once the victims let the Victims’ Services know they want to be notified of changes to the offender’s status, they are registered and the victim is told of any changes.
For example, if the offender has moved to another facility or is up for a parole review hearing, the victim is told.
Joyner said that although the Lussiers were told they didn’t need to worry about Perry’s status, they could still have at any time asked to be notified.
The family is still trying to figure out why they were told they had nothing to fear.
Joyner said she tried to explain to the Lussiers that the Commission is “governed by certain statutes or law that we must follow. We can’t be held accountable for what a judge or district attorney told the family.”
Joyner said Perry complied with what was asked of her, including complying with work release, which she has participated in for a number of years.
If you are a victim of a crime and want to be notified of an offender’s status contact the North Carolina Department of Correction Office of Victim Services at 1-866-719-0108.
Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Shavonne Potts