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A judge let a terminally ill killer leave prison to die at home. The victim's daughter calls it a miscarriage of justice

Mensah M. Dean, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in News & Features

PHILADELPHIA -- Jessie Alexander is just over five feet tall, frail and suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that is expected to kill her within a year. To help with breathing, she uses an oxygen machine.

Since July, Alexander, 67, has been living with relatives and receiving home hospice care -- and that's an outrage to Alicia Russell-Jenkins.

A Philadelphia jury found Alexander guilty of killing Russell-Jenkins' father in 1984, and a judge sentenced her to life in prison with no chance for parole. When Alexander shot Willie Russell, she was already on probation for voluntary manslaughter after killing her brother-in-law in 1980.

Russell-Jenkins, 48, learned in April that Alexander's lawyer used the state's compassionate release law to petition for her release to an East Falls hospice facility due to her failing health, and that Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Glenn Bronson granted her wish.

In July, Bronson approved another petition from Alexander's lawyer allowing her to be cared for by relatives at their home because Alexander's condition had improved.

Russell-Jenkins said she and her family had insufficient input in the process that freed Alexander. She believes the release of her father's killer is a miscarriage of justice.

 

"We're not talking about a drug dealer. We're not talking about misdemeanor cases," said Russell-Jenkins. "We're talking about a sociopath, a live murderer. We don't feel safe knowing that she's out here somewhere."

She was just 12 when Alexander killed her father, then 33, in his North Philadelphia home. He had ended an affair with Alexander and in a rage, she shot him in the head multiple times, mutilated his body with acid and dumped it in a vacant lot in the 4300 block of Rising Sun Avenue. The damage to Russell's body was so severe that the family had to have his body cremated.

Russell-Jenkins said her father was a custodian and doting parent whose death devastated her and her two younger brothers. She can't understand why his killer was freed.

"If she murdered once, OK, maybe you can forgive her. But then she murdered my father," said Russell-Jenkins, a nurse and mother of four who lives in New Castle, Del. "She's living in peace after committing two cold-blooded murders."

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