The Two-Way
12:47 pm
Wed August 15, 2012

After 49 Years, Arizona Killer Freed From Prison; Was Longest-Serving Woman

Now 69-years-old, Betty Smithey was convicted for the 1963 murder of a 15-month old Phoenix girl.

Monday, thanks to clemency granted by Gov. Jan Brewer (R), she walked out of Arizona's Perryville State Prison after serving 49 years of a life sentence. She had been, according to the Arizona Republic and other news outlets, the nation's longest-serving female prisoner.

"It's wonderful driving down the road and not seeing any barbed wire," Smithey told the Republic by telephone as she went with relatives to a nieces home in Mesa, Ariz. "I am lucky, so very lucky.

The Los Angeles Times adds that:

"Before Smithey's release from the Perryville state prison, parole board members focused on whether she truly had changed and whether she could handle the stress of returning to the outside world after five decades.

" 'I really see no value in keeping you in prison any longer. I really see no value in keeping strings on you any longer,' Parole Board Chairman and Director Jesse Hernandez told Smithey before voting to grant her release, according to the Republic."

Smithey's time isn't as long as that of a Texas man — Harvey Stewart, also a convicted killer — who was released last year after serving 60 years.

Earlier this year, infamous "lipstick killer" William Heirens died in an Illinois state prison. He had been incarcerated for 66 years. He killed two women and a young girl. At one of the women's homes, he had used lipstick to write a message on a mirror: "For heaven's sake, catch me before I kill more. I cannot control myself." Heirens was 83 when he died.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.