Man wins full parole board hearing in 1982 GJ murder of sister-in-law

Relatives of a woman who was stabbed to death in front of her sons in 1982 are marshaling opposition to parole for the man serving a life sentence for her vicious murder.

James Drake, 57, last week won consideration for parole by the full state Parole Board after a regularly scheduled hearing in which, according to the victim’s brother, Drake substantially changed his story and pointed the finger of blame squarely at his brother, Richard, the husband of the victim. Richard Drake, 55, was convicted and remains in prison for hiring James to kill Regina.

One of Regina Drake’s sons already has written to the parole board, telling it to deny James Drake “the parole and the freedom he does not deserve.”

“James Drake is pure evil,” Jason Collard wrote, according to a copy of the email he sent to the board. “I cannot stress that enough, James Drake is pure evil.”

Collard, now 34, and two of his brothers were in bed with their mother in the early-morning hours of Dec. 16, 1982, when someone — unquestionably James Drake, according to the prosecutor in the case — crept into the room and hacked Regina Drake to death, inflicting 17 stab wounds and slashing her throat.

James Drake never confessed to any role in the killing and always insisted his role was to dispose of the evidence.

He was convicted as an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder, and he was jailed for a life sentence as a habitual offender. He first became eligible for parole in 2002, but until Thursday his case never progressed to the point the full seven-member board considered freeing him. He can be paroled only with the votes of four board members.

James Drake departed from his minimal explanations Thursday during his parole hearing, claiming his brother, Richard Drake, actually killed Regina, said Rick Forrest, Regina’s brother.

Forrest, who has attended multiple parole hearings for both Drakes, said James testified Thursday that Richard met James at Richard and Regina’s place, let him in the front door, walked James to the bedroom and shone a light on Regina’s dead body.

Richard told James that if he didn’t dispose of the evidence, meaning the bloody knife and clothing, that he and his family could expect to meet a similar fate, Forrest said he heard James testify.

“I know for a fact Richard was not in the room,” Forrest said. “(James) out and out lied about it, and I pointed it out” when he spoke at the hearing.

Richard Drake, in fact, went to great lengths that night to make certain he was seen and heard at the bakery where he worked, according to Forrest and the prosecutor in the case, William Kain.

James’ sudden allegation is preposterous, Kain said, adding James Drake’s bid for freedom is outrageous.

“I don’t believe James Drake for a minute,” Kain said. “I believe he did it.”

Richard Drake gave investigators a detailed statement about how he hired James to fly from Louisiana to Grand Junction to kill Regina, and the two were to split the proceeds of a life-insurance policy.

“This was a premeditated murder motivated by greed and done in front of her children,” Kain said. “I still to this day have nightmares, the look on her face, the defensive wounds to her arms, and he kept stabbing her repeatedly. It was a hellaciously brutal, unforgiveable act.”

Kain was prohibited by the judge from playing the tape of Richard’s confession at trial, and the jury convicted James Drake of the accessory charge. James Drake would have walked with time served had he not been proved a habitual criminal, Kain said.

Richard Drake also was convicted and was sentenced to die, but the Colorado Supreme Court set the penalty aside. He, too, is now eligible for parole, and his next hearing is scheduled for February 2013.

James Drake is classified as a minimum-custody inmate, a finding that considers his institutional behavior and program compliance, Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman Alison Morgan said.

Anyone interested in communicating with the parole board about James Drake must do so within 30 days of Friday.

Letters may be written to the Colorado Parole Board, attn: chairman, 1600 West 24th St., Bldg. 54, Pueblo CO, 81003, or faxed to 719-583-5805. Email communications may be sent to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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