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 60 years old, Branson is housed at El Dorado Correctional Facility-Central where his custody level is low-medium.
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 case 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 and in 2014. Following those hearings and public comment periods, his parole was denied.
According to the Prisoner Review Board, 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 offender is housed; 9) proportionality to sentence guidelines; and 10) risk factors revealed by any risk assessment.
Benfield eligible for hearing
Also eligible for a parole hearing this spring is Rocky Benfield, a 54-year-old inmate in maximum security at Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility.
Benfield is eligible for a parole hearing in April for possible parole in May. He has convictions in Pawnee, Reno and Saline counties. He was convicted of battery against a correctional officer in 2002 in Reno County; criminal threat in 2003 in Pawnee County; criminal damage to property greater than $500 and less than $25,000 in Pawnee County in 1999; and rape in Saline County in 1990.
According to the KDOC online Offender Population Search, Benfield is working a job.
Public comment sessions concerning Benfield and other inmates eligible for April hearings will be held March 5 at City Hall in Kansas City, Kan.; March 14 in Derby and March 16 in Topeka.
As for Branson and other inmates eligible for May hearings, the Prisoner Review Board has announced it will not be conducting sessions at those regular locations in April, but it will hold a session in Hays, with more information to be announced. The public may also attend a session in March to provide statements in support or opposition concerning those inmates.
Statements to the board may also be mailed to Kansas Department of Corrections, Prisoner Review Board, 714 SW Jackson Street, Suite 300; Topeka, KS 66603.