A dying inmate who was sentenced to life in prison as a teenager has become the first Iowa prisoner to be resentenced and released in response to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year. An Iowa Department of Corrections spokesperson says 33-year-old Kristina Fetters was transferred Tuesday to a Des Moines hospice care facility.
Last week, the Board of Parole approved a “compassionate release” for Fetters with board member Doris Kelly noting it’s unlikely Fetters will recover from Stage 4 breast cancer. “I do not see her as a public safety risk,” Kelly said. Fetters was 15 when she entered prison after being convicted in the 1995 death of her great aunt, Arlene Klehm, in Des Moines. At last Tuesday’s parole board meeting, Kelly said Fetters’ case could be revisited if her condition were to improve. “I would be supportive of a parole to hospice only, with many conditions. In other words, she is not to leave hospice,” Kelly said.
Corrections department spokesperson Fred Scaletta confirmed that Fetters has been assigned a parole officer who will monitor her condition and report to the parole board. Most of the victim’s family supported Fetters’ parole to hospice. Fetters’ aunt, Darcy Olson of Des Moines, said Kristina’s mother and the rest of her family are relieved with the decision, but there’s little cause for celebration. “It’s just so bitter sweet,” Olson said. “This has been a 19 year old tragedy for my family. This will bring closure for my whole family and help us all cope just a little bit better with the situation. I’m grateful that my sister (Fetters’ mother) will be able to spend this time with her.”
The U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled life sentences without parole for juveniles are unconstitutional. In November, a Polk County judge resentenced Fetters to a life sentence with the possibility for parole.