WACO, Texas (KWTX) – Area law enforcement is renewing a decades-old campaign in an effort to block the parole of a former Waco man who killed the Waco Police Department sergeant. Roger Barrett and a Kansas man in 1976.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has denied Thelette Brandon’s parole request 11 times since he first became eligible in 1984. The latest parole decision came in June 2020.
According to parole records, the board rejected Brandon’s latest parole attempts because “the record indicates that the instantaneous offense contains elements of brutality, violence, and aggressive behavior, or a conscious selection of the victim’s vulnerability that indicates a conscious disregard for the life, safety, or property of others, such that the offender poses an ongoing threat to public safety.
However, with Brandon set for parole review in June, Charley Wilkison, executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas – the state’s largest law enforcement organization with more than 25,000 members – and other groups are asking those who are interested in keeping Brandon locked up contact the parole board to protest his release.
“This is a dangerous individual who has admitted to killing two people,” Wilkison said. “We certainly don’t need those kinds of people in the community. This would impact the safety of all people where he would be released. Somehow he avoided the death penalty in this case, which he thinks would have been justice, for both, but especially for the murder of a public official, much less a Texas peace officer.
Wilkison said she wrote the letter at the behest of Barrett’s widow, Shirley Barrett, of Waco, who declined through a friend to be interviewed for this story.
Barrett became a pioneer for victims’ rights after her husband was killed. She and Nell-Wynn Tull, the widow of a slain Georgetown state trooper, started Texans for Victims Rights and spearheaded legislation that became known as the Crime Victims Bill of Rights in 1987.
Brandon, currently 69, is being held in the Montford prison unit in Lubbock, according to prison officials.
McLennan County District Attorney Josh Tetens drafted a letter to the parole board Wednesday protesting Brandon’s parole, saying he “has no regard for human life.”
“The impact this crime has had on the family members, co-workers and friends of these two victims is immeasurable,” Teten’s letter said. “Although the incident occurred in 1976, the loss and grief these families endured remain. This office strongly believes that serving anything less than a life sentence is not justice for the crimes committed by this ruthless killer. He should spend his life in prison.”
Roger Barrett, a 42-year-old sergeant, responded to a stabbing call at the former downtown Waco bus station on Columbus Avenue on June 12, 1976.
Barrett found 21-year-old Frank Johnson of Kansas dead and Brandon was trying to rob a cab. Barrett and Brandon grappled and Barrett was stabbed multiple times, then shot with his own gun. Brandon then engaged in a shootout with police officers before being caught.
Brandon was convicted of capital murder in McLennan County and sentenced to death. However, the US Supreme Court overturned that verdict in 1981, ruling that defendants must be warned prior to psychiatric evaluations that the results may be used against them during the retribution phase of trials as juries seek to determine future dangerousness of a defendant.
Brandon later pleaded guilty to two counts of murder and was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.
Retired 10th Appeals Court judge Felipe Reyna, who was McLennan County district attorney when Brandon went on trial, said he encourages anyone interested in the case to write to the parole board to protest the release of Brandon.
“He’s just an absolute sociopath,” Reyna said. “He has absolutely no awareness of anything.”
Vern Darlington, president of the Waco Police Association, said his group has historically supported Ms Barrett’s efforts to keep her husband’s killer locked up.
“We will participate in any way we can to try to block parole,” Darlington said.