Oklahoma's Own In Focus: HB 2946 Hopes To Lengthen Time Served For Criminals

There’s a bill making its way through the state house that would require anyone convicted of accessory to murder in the first or second degree to serve 85 percent of their prison sentence.

Thursday, February 8th 2024, 10:49 pm

By: News On 6


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There’s a bill making its way through the state House that would require anyone convicted of accessory to murder in the first or second degree to serve 85 percent of their prison sentence.

House Bill 2946 is named in honor of 16-year-olds Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman. The pair were kidnapped from a home in Welch, Okla., in December 1999 and presumed killed.

State Rep. Steve Bashore (R-Miami) said he filed the bill because the man who pleaded guilty in their case, Ronnie Busick, was released after only a few years.

Related Story: 'Let's Get Something Done': Senate Bill Filed In Honor Of Missing Welch Girls

Bashore said, at the very least, the bill would ensure criminals like Busick would have to serve more of their actual time and not earn credits toward an early release.

The family of Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman pushed for the bill.

Lauria and Ashley’s families say Busick's early release was like a punch to the gut.

Lauria Bible - Ashley Freeman

Lorene Bible has never given up fighting for her daughter, Lauria.

"I started talking about her the minute she disappeared, and I've not stopped since," Bible said.

Related Story: Family Furious After Man Convicted In Welch Girls' Disappearance Gets Early Prison Release

She has no plans of stopping either, even after the only man convicted in her daughter’s case got out of prison early for what corrections officials call 'good behavior.'

"When we found out that Ronnie Busick was getting released, that brought up another storm," Bible said.

A storm they’ve lived through for 24 years.

Lauria was at a sleepover with her friend Ashley in 1999 when the pair were kidnapped. The teens still haven’t been found.

"All that goes through my mind every day, 24 hours a day if she's alive, is she eating? Is she cold? Is she freezing to death? How is she being treated," Bible said.

Something else on her mind these days is making a bigger impact – a change to sentencing requirements. That’s what Lauria and Ashley’s Law would do.

Anyone convicted of accessory to murder in the first or second degree would have to serve 85 percent of their sentence. They also wouldn't be able to earn any type of credit that would reduce their sentence below 85 percent.

Related Story: DA Calls For Change After Man Convicted In Disappearance Of Welch Girls Gets Early Prison Release

"We're out to make sure nothing like this can ever happen again to another family because it's a nightmare," Bible said.

Now that the bill has made it out of committee, it is ready for consideration by the full House. If passed, it would go into effect on Nov. 1.

Since Oklahoma became a state, there's been a law in place to give prisoners credits that reduce their sentences, so they rarely serve their sentences in full.

Prisoners get credit for the time they spent in the county jail and once they get to prison, they get credits for taking classes, having a job, maintaining good hygiene, a clean cell and having a good attitude with staff and other prisoners.

Level 1 prisoners get zero credits. That's people on death row or who have escaped.

Most everyone starts at Level 2, earning 22 days of credit a month.

Level 3 earns 33 days a month.

Level 4, 44 days each month.

Enhanced Level 3 is 45 days and Enhanced Level 4 is 60 days credit for every 30 served.

So, if you're on Level 2 and have a 10-year sentence, you're released after 5.8 years.

On the advanced level, for a 10-year sentence, you're out in 3.5 years.

The Department of Corrections does not consider that early release. It considers it time served based on the law.

If a prisoner has infractions or breaks the rules, they can lose credit.

News On 6 did find some instances of light sentences for accessory.

Tyler Reece was charged with accessory to murder in Osage County in 2020 and pleaded guilty to accessory to a felony and was sentenced to one year in the county jail and 10 years of probation.

Josiah Sklar was convicted of accessory after murder when a woman was beaten to death in Tulsa County in 2013.

He was given two years probation.

News On 6 found other sentences ranging from 10 to 20 years for accessory to murder.

The legislation at the center of our story has a long way to go before it's law.

It now goes to the full House and if it passes there the legislation heads over to the Senate.

Lawmakers are in session until May.

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