Posted Aug 14, 2012 02:41 pm CDT
Betty Smithey, who served 49 years behind bars and had the distinction of being the nation’s longest-serving female inmate, is now free.
Smithey, sentenced to life without parole for the murder of a 15-month-old Phoenix girl in 1963, had been granted clemency by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in June and was freed Monday by Arizona’s Board of Executive Clemency, the Arizona Republic reports.
Smithey, who is now 69 and walks with a cane, was deemed to no longer be a threat to herself or others. Smithey was 20 and working as a live-in babysitter when she killed the child, Sandy Gerberick on New Year’s Day. The child’s mother later forgave Smithey, which Smithey says allowed her to forgive herself and become a better person.
The Republic notes that Monday’s release was a rare occurrence. Smithey, who’d escaped four times from three different prisons, was previously recommended for clemency in 1994 and 2003, but governors at the time declined to reduce her sentence.