LINCOLN — The Nebraska Board of Pardons granted request for a hearing by one of the men convicted of a 1985 murder at a religious commune near Rulo, Neb.
The board's action Thursday means Timothy Haverkamp will get a chance to make his case for ending lifetime parole. Haverkamp, 51, got out of prison in 2009 after serving 23 years of a sentence of 10 years to life.
A commutation would reduce the life sentence to a term of years, giving Haverkamp a chance to be fully released from state supervision. Unlike a pardon, a commutation does not nullify a conviction.
The Pardons Board consists of Gov. Dave Heineman, Secretary of State John Gale and Attorney General Jon Bruning.
At Thursday’s meeting, Gale said he was impressed with Haverkamp’s record following his release from prison. Gale cited the parolee’s education and work experience as reasons he should be considered for commutation.
“He has indeed led a very positive life in the community,” Gale said. “He has a good job. He stayed out of trouble.”
Haverkamp now lives in Lincoln, where he works in tool and die manufacturing.
He recently earned associate degrees in machine tooling and professional studies from Southeast Community College and Metro Community College in Nebraska.
Heineman and Bruning agreed with Gale’s assessment. The governor suggested the Board of Pardons ask the state Board of Parole for a recommendation on what type of action to consider.
“I think the question for us is: Is it more valuable for the public safety to have him on parole, or is it more valuable for the taxpayers to quit spending money supervising someone that may not” need to be supervised, Bruning said.
Haverkamp was one of five men convicted for the grisly torture and slaying of fellow cult member James Thimm. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and testified against cult leader Michael Ryan.
Ryan, 65, remains on death row for Thimm’s slaying. Ryan also was convicted of killing Luke Stice, 5, the son of one of his followers.
The other men convicted in the case have been released from prison and parole.
“I haven’t been in a bit of trouble,” Haverkamp said.
Haverkamp was a model prisoner who earned work release and was entrusted to work at the Governor’s Mansion. In the five years since his release, he has not violated the terms of his parole.
He will remain under state supervision throughout the proceedings. A hearing date will be set for later this year.