Man who almost killed Richland cop in 1982 could be released

By Tyler Richardson, Tri-City HeraldApril 28, 2014 

Jerry Lain

A man who has served more than 30 years in prison for stabbing and shooting a Richland police officer in 1982 could be released this year after a state review board again found him eligible for parole.

No date has been set for releasing Jerry Dean Lain, 56, and it could take months for a release plan to get approved by the state Department of Corrections and the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board.

Neither agency has seen a plan from Lain, who is a prisoner at the Monroe Correctional Center, officials said.

"Whatever kind of plan he submits it has to be investigated to determine if it's even feasible or if there are any community concerns," said Robin Riley, administrative assistant for the review board. "Then, DOC submits it for review and the board decides whether to release him or not."

Lain has been denied parole at least six times.

Lain stabbed Mike Fitzpatrick seven times and shot him twice with his own gun, almost killing the police officer responding to a car prowl near the Richland Y. Fitzpatrick suffered a shattered jaw, severe stomach injuries and potentially fatal cuts to his arms.

The attack came just five months after Lain was released from an Iowa prison for stabbing a man in a bar fight. While in prison, he threw acid in another inmate's face, permanently blinding the man.

Lain was sentenced for Fitzpatrick's attack to a maximum of life. The parole board later set a minimum sentence of 20 years.

Current Richland police Capt. Mike Cobb is concerned that if Lain is released he will hurt someone in the community or another police officer. Cobb was a patrolman when Fitzpatrick was shot and stabbed.

"I view human behavior as predictable, and I think he has demonstrated repeatedly that his violent behavior is something we can't predict," Cobb said. "The only way to ensure people around him are safe is to keep him incarcerated."

Fitzpatrick could not be reached Monday.

Each time Lain was denied parole in the past, the review board added time to his sentence, Riley said. He was first eligible for conditional release to a transitional program in 2009, but he failed to get a release plan approved.

Lain's best chance to get out came in 2010 when he was granted parole and planned to go to Iowa to live with family. However, Fitzpatrick and others lobbied then-Gov. Chris Gregoire to overrule the board's decision to grant Lain parole.

Just days before Lain was to be freed, Gregoire stepped in and blocked his release. Lain sat in prison while the Supreme Court reviewed Gregoire's authority to keep him behind bars.

Last November, the Supreme Court ruled that Gregoire was within her rights when she used a little-known provision in state law to block the release. Lain was again denied parole.

During Lain's most recent parole hearing, the review board found he expressed remorse for his crime, has participated in rehabilitation programs and has a solid support system in Iowa that could help him with the transition from prison.

The board also feels Lain has served a sentence "significantly greater" than the high-end range of more than eight years for his crime, a report said.

Though Lane has committed 23 infractions in 18 incidents while in prison, he has not been involved in any incidents behind bars since 2004.

"Mr. Lain describes becoming 'more secure with himself and getting an education,' " the report said. "He has received skills in carpentry, upholstery, auto body, computer programming, business and accounting. He chooses positive people to hang out with ...".

Although the board decided Lain has taken steps to rehabilitate, a doctor who performed a psychological examine found he is a moderate to high risk to reoffend if released, the report said.

Lain told the board he was sorry for hurting Fitzpatrick and the attack was fueled by heavy drinking and not wanting to return to prison.

"If people do not have remorse, then they are destined to do it again," he told the board.

Richard Linn, a Bellevue attorney, has represented Lain since 2010. He told the Herald it is time for Lain to be released, and the plan is to get his client back to Iowa with family.

Linn has heard some rumblings from people who may try to lobby Gov. Jay Inslee to keep Lain behind bars, he said.

"If people are going to be complaining to the (review) board about this, I will definitely contact the governor in support," he said. "I support (the board's) decision 100 percent. It speaks for itself. If the governor is considering reviewing it, I would add my advocacy in support of Lain."

Lain also told the board that if his plan to release him to Iowa is not approved, he may look at trying to release him to the Tacoma area.

-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; trichardson@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

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