Killer talks of growing up

CARSON CITY — "Show and tell" killer Sandy Shaw told the Parole Board on Wednesday that she cannot bring back to life the man she and two others murdered in 1986, but that after 21 years behind bars, she wants a chance to live a normal life.

"I will forever regret taking away his life," Shaw said about 21-year-old James Cotton Kelly. "I have done a lot of growing up. It takes a lifetime to build a life, but only a second to tear it down."

Parole Board commissioners said they will make a decision on whether to parole Shaw within two to three weeks. Shaw would be released Dec. 17 if she wins parole.

Now 36, Shaw was a 15-year-old Rancho High School student with blond cheerleader looks when she and two teenage accomplices, Troy Kell and William Merritt, lured Kelly into the desert, where he was robbed of $1,400 and shot six times in the face.

Merritt served 12 years for the crime and was released but then returned to prison after committing other crimes. Kell killed a fellow inmate while in prison and is awaiting execution in Utah.

In the days after Kelly’s slaying, Shaw took friends to view the corpse, inducing the news media to refer to the case as the "show and tell" murder. Kelly’s body was not discovered by police for six days.

Shaw was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The state Pardons Board in 2004 commuted her life sentence, making her immediately eligible for parole.

But at a hearing three years ago, commissioners denied her parole, in part because of two recent disciplinary infractions. They urged her to change her ways if she wanted to win parole.

During Wednesday’s hearing, commissioners noted she has not committed any infractions during the past three years at the Southern Nevada Women’s Correctional Center in North Las Vegas.

She spoke of how she has an opportunity to apply for a receptionist job and other employment if she is released. Shaw added she wanted to perform volunteer work with humane society organizations and troubled juveniles.

Shaw, speaking from a hearing room in the women’s prison, said she has turned her life around. The hearing was conducted by video teleconference with the commissioners sitting in the Parole Board’s office in Carson City.

George Thiede, Kelly’s brother, pleaded with the commissioners to deny Shaw parole. He said Shaw should serve at least 40 years in prison.

Thiede noted that 10 family members and friends of Shaw were at the North Las Vegas facility in a demonstration of support for her. He said he still grieves for his brother and becomes upset whenever her parole hearing dates draw near.

"She gets to see her family," Thiede said. "I don’t get to see my brother. I have gone through more than 20 years of no brother."

His 17-year-old son, Tomi, said he knows it’s not right to kill.

"She was young," the teen said. "But just because she was young, she still knew right from wrong."

Thiede showed the commissioners photos of his brother, including those after his decomposing body was found in the desert.

"My brother was a soul, a good soul. Let’s not forget about the victim."

Shaw expressed regret over the killing and said she could understand Thiede’s views.

"I have tried to put myself in their shoes," Shaw said. "No matter what I say, it would not be enough for them. I understand that. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the victim or the family. I will be forever sorry."

Commissioner Mary Vieth mentioned that the Parole Board has received many letters from people across the nation about Shaw. She said some of the letters come from men who think they would develop a romantic relationship with her if she is released.

Shaw said she only wants to live with her family and never has responded to letters from men interested in a relationship.

"I have no desire to make a commitment with anybody," she said.

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