Dying Inmate Serving Life Sentence Granted Parole in Hospice

| by Dominic Kelly

In 1994, 14-year-old Kristina Fetters ran away from a juvenile mental health facility with a friend, made her way into the home of her then-73-year-old great-aunt Arlene Khlem, hit her over the head with a frying pan, and stabbed her with a kitchen knife, leaving the woman dead.

At 15 years old, Fetters was charged with murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In a 2009 interview, Fetters, who had seemed to evolve over the 15 years since the crime, said she thought she got exactly what she deserved.

Now, a judge has decided to grant 33-year-old Fetters parole, making her the first Iowa inmate sentenced to life in prison without parole to have her sentence changed. Fetters won’t be returning home, however. She’ll be headed to a hospice facility where she will die of late stage inoperable breast cancer.

“I just can’t wait to see her,” said good friend and former inmate Jamie Ross. “It’s heartbreaking to know that she’s getting so bad.”

The parole board reportedly went back and forth about the decision to grant Fetters parole, but ultimately decided after considering her safety and the safety of others that it was the best decision to make for her situation. As part of her parole agreement, Fetters will not be allowed to go anywhere else but the hospice facility, and she will be appointed a parole officer.

“It’s now time for my family to have closure,” said Darcy Olson, Fetters’ aunt. “Kris’ impending death cannot be denied, and while there have been negative comments, we believe, as the victims, that this family has suffered enough.”

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for juveniles to serve mandatory life sentences. Fetters new sentence is being called historic because of that ruling last year.