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Mo. Paroles Killer of Abusive Husband

By CHRIS BLANK
The Associated Press
Friday, May 4, 2007; 10:25 PM

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A 76-year-old woman left prison Friday after living 25 years behind bars for helping to kill her husband, who she said had been abusing her.

Shirley Lute was released to shouts of support and cries of "We love you, Ms. Lute!" from inmates at the Chillicothe Correctional Center, said Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Hauswirth.

Lute was initially sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for at least 50 years. She was convicted of aiding her son in killing her husband, Melvin, who she claims physically tortured and mentally tormented her.

In 2004, then-Gov. Bob Holden commuted her sentence to make her immediately eligible for parole, but the state Board of Probation and Parole refused to release her. Then, this year, the state Supreme Court overruled the board and ordered her released.

She walked out of prison Friday into the arms of her two daughters, who were 13 and 11 when their mother's prison sentence started, then rode with them to start a new life in mid-Missouri.

"I'm really overwhelmed. My grandkids have gotten big, and my daughters are just as lovely as ever," Lute said after arriving at her daughter's Columbia home. "I have to get know them again."

Roy Welch, Lute's son, was convicted of second-degree murder in the killing of Lute's husband in their home. He is serving time for two unrelated crimes _ an assault and weapons offense _ committed while he was in prison for the murder. Roy Welch is scheduled to have a parole hearing in December, Hauswirth said.

Lute will remain on parole for the rest of her life. Hauswirth said he could not discuss her parole conditions because they are confidential. All parolees must abide by some general requirements, such as not using drugs or possessing weapons.

Another woman convicted of killing her husband will likely be released next week, Hauswirth said.

Lynda Branch was convicted of shooting her husband, Raymond, in 1986. Branch, 54, says she grabbed the gun after he threatened to shoot her and her daughter.

The board approved Branch's parole on Monday, but a "technical problem" has delayed her release, Hauswirth said.

Both women's cases were handled by the Missouri Battered Women's Clemency Coalition, which includes professors and students at the state's four law schools.

© 2007 The Associated Press