Robin Lee Branson, the man convicted of two murders committed during Great Bend liquor store robberies in 1982, is eligible for a parole hearing in May for possible parole in June.
Now 63 years old, Branson is housed at El Dorado Correctional Facility-Central where his custody level is low-medium. He is working in a job at the prison.
Branson was convicted of killing Margaret A. Krom and Sarah Wittig in robberies less than a week apart in January 1982. The killings prompted liquor store owners in Great Bend to request a city ordinance that their stores would close at 8 p.m. That ordinance remained on the books from 1983 until 2016, when the city council approved an ordinance that again allowed liquor stores in Great Bend to stay open until 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
The double homicide went unsolved for two years, but in 1984 Branson was recorded by an undercover Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent describing the murders. After pleading guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, Branson was sentenced to two concurrent sentences of 15 years to life.
Not his first hearing
Branson was eligible for parole hearings in 2008, 2014 and 2018. Following those hearings and public comment periods, his parole was denied.
According to the Prisoner Review Board (PRB), inmates are required by law to receive a hearing when they become parole-eligible, but parole eligibility is not necessarily the same as parole suitability. In determining parole suitability, the board considers 10 areas: 1) crime; 2) prior criminal history; 3) program participation; 4) disciplinary record; 5) reports of physical/mental examinations; 6) comments received from the victim, the public and criminal justice officials; 7) prison capacity; 8) input from staff where the offender is housed; 9) proportionality to sentence guidelines; and 10) risk factors revealed by any risk assessment.
Benfield eligible for parole hearing
A man serving a prison sentence for a rape committed in 1990 in Saline County is eligible for a parole hearing in April. Rocky Benfield, 57, is also in prison for Pawnee County convictions for criminal damage to property and criminal threat, committed in 1999 and 2003, respectively. He also has a conviction for battery against a law enforcement officer, committed in 2002 in Reno County.
Benfield was 28 years old when he entered the Topeka Correctional Facility on May 22, 1991. Over the years, he has been incarcerated at correctional facilities in Norton, Hutchinson and El Dorado, as well as the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility and Larned State Hospital. He is currently at the El Dorado Correctional Facility - Central, where his custody level is low medium. He is not participating in a work program.
He also had a parole hearing in 2018.
Public comment sessions
The Prisoner Review Board typically conducts public comment sessions the month before an inmate’s parole hearing. In a continued effort to be more accessible to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, public comment sessions are not held in person but are conducted using a Zoom Webinar platform.
A session for comments concerning Benfield and others eligible for a parole hearing in April will be offered from 2-4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 24. The registration deadline is March 23.
Sessions for comments about Branson and others eligible for a parole hearing in May will be held from 9-11 a.m. on April 7 and from 2-4 p.m. on April 21.
Any citizen who would like to express comments on these inmates, but is unable to attend one of the Public Comment Sessions, may send a letter to: Kansas Department of Correction, Prisoner Review Board; 714 SW Jackson, Suite 300; Topeka, KS 66603.