The family of a murder victim in east Liverpool are trying to prevent the release of her killer.
The family of Kevin Burks, who died in 1987, are asking the public to help keep Billy Wayne Smith behind bars. They can do this by writing to state lawmakers and telling the parole board that they oppose a new law that expands parole opportunities for violent offenders, according to the family.
Smith, 52, was sentenced in Jefferson County to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 59 years. The new law, however, allowed Smith to have a parole hearing last month outside his cell at Belmont Correctional Institution.
Kevin Cumblidge, who survived Smith’s stabbing in 1987, also fears an early release for the convicted killer due to Senate Bill 256, which expands parole options for violent teens.
If released, Smith’s sentence would be reduced by decades.
Burks’ family and Cumblidge fear Smith will be released into society by members of the Ohio Adult Parole Authority – and do to someone else what he did to Burks.
On November 16, 1987, several assailants – including Smith – kidnapped, robbed, tortured and murdered 25-year-old Kevin Burks of East Liverpool.
The authors had gone in search of a particular African-American man. When they failed to find him, they targeted Burks.
The attackers tricked Burks into telling him that a friend was in need. They then tortured, stabbed, shot and slit his throat, according to Trumbull County Assistant District Attorney Christopher Becker, who prosecuted Smith in Jefferson County at the time.
Smith, who was 17 years and 10 months old when he murdered Burks, had a parole date set for 2051.
But SB 256, which went into effect in 2021, requires minors who murder a person to be eligible for parole after no more than 25 years.
Burks’ family members are concerned about the “injustice” that could occur if Smith were released.
“My brother didn’t get a second chance,” Burks’ sister Jennifer Hicks said. “My family didn’t get a second chance. When we go to see my brother, we have to go to his grave. ”
Cumblidge, who was attacked and stabbed by Smith on December 7, 1987, said: “I went to the secluded wooded area where Kevin Burks was tortured. I saw the autopsy photographs. And I too was attacked by Billy Wayne Smith. Only I ran away. Kevin Burks did not.
The family of Burks and Cumblidge are asking the public to help by contacting the parole board through the Department of Corrections website at https://drc.ohio.gov.
“The inmate’s name is Billy Smith. His inmate number A216211. Be sure to write “object” in the field “Do you support or oppose the publication?” “bar,” Cumblidge tells those who visit the website.
They’re also asking citizens to contact their state representative and state senator and ask them to change SB 256, so that more families don’t have to struggle with parole and endure the same trauma.
Laura E. Austen, deputy director of policy and outreach for the Ohio Public Defender’s Office, said she supports the new law.
“Ohio lawmakers have made the correct and necessary decision by passing Senate Bill 256 to comply with United States Supreme Court precedent. This law has been carefully considered and shaped by the legislature for over a year, receiving overwhelming support from the Ohio legislature,” she said, noting that this is a nation that believes in redemption. .
Austen said his office thinks the new law is working well.