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No parole for 1974 UAH killer

By Kate Brumback
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — The state parole board Monday denied parole for a man who beat a 19-year-old University of Alabama in Huntsville student to death more than 33 years ago.

After hearing testimony from friends of Kelly Zettle, a representative from Gov. Bob
Riley's office and state Attorney General Troy King, the three members of the parole board consulted with each other briefly before denying parole for 70-year-old Jacinto Rodriquez.

No one appeared at the hearing to speak on behalf of Rodriquez, who is serving a life sentence for the March 16, 1974, murder of Zettle, who was a freshman music student at UAH. He also received a 15-year sentence for the attempted murder of Zettle's roommate, Bobbi Ann Ostrander.

Testimony

Robin Rawls of Montgomery, who was a childhood friend of Zettle in Knoxville, Tenn., spoke at the hearing on behalf of Zettle's parents, Bob and Jackie, who live in Florence. The Zettles, she said, have been at previous parole board hearings but suffer from various health problems that prevented them from attending Monday's hearing.

Rawls said that if Rodriquez were released, the Zettles would live in constant fear that he would try to find them or their granddaughters, one of whom is named after Kelly. She also cautioned that, though he is old now, Rodriquez should not be considered any less dangerous.

"Nothing can change the fact that he represented himself as a member a church and spent time intentionally cultivating Kelly's friendship with his devious purpose," Rawls said. "Those traits that made him a killer in 1974 make him just as dangerous today."

Rawls noted that the judge who sentenced Rodriquez gave him the harshest penalty possible at the time because the death penalty wasn't reinstated in Alabama until 1976.

"It was clear from the judge's comments at the time that had it been possible, a more severe penalty would have been imposed," Rawls said. "Today I ask you to hear the Zettles' heartfelt plea to you that Jacinto Rodriquez never ever be released from prison to kill or brutalize anyone again. I urge you to continue the sentence that the judge originally intended, life in prison."

Philip Bradberry, of Tuscaloosa, graduated from Bradshaw High School in Florence with Zettle and was her boyfriend at the time of her murder. He also spoke on behalf of her parents.

He described how Rodriquez used a false identity to establish a relationship with a Huntsville church and also posed as a member of the UAH music department staff. After gaining the trust of Zettle and Ostrander, who were both violinists, Rodriquez lured them to a vacant house under the pretense of meeting with other musicians.

When they arrived, Bradberry said, Rodriquez used a heavy metal object to bludgeon Zettle to death and raped and beat Ostrander and left her to die.

"Even after all this time, any time I see Kelly's parents, they immediately are overcome with emotion," Bradberry said. "They have been denied the joys of seeing their only daughter mature into an adult."

Scott Rouse, deputy legal adviser to the governor, said he was deeply disturbed by Rodriquez's crime, which he described as "murder for murder's sake."

"I can say this, the Department of Corrections will always have a place for Mr. Rodriquez and we urge the board to keep him there," Rouse said.

King called Rodriquez's actions "monstrous, barbaric brutality."

"He escaped the death penalty because of a change in the law," King said. "We have prisons that punish people. If ever there was a man who deserved to be punished, Jacinto Rodriquez is that man. He earned the sentence that he got. He was shown leniency when he escaped the death penalty. We should not now compound that by releasing him early."

Rodgriquez will come up for parole consideration again in five years.

Rawls said after the hearing that she was happy with the outcome and that the Zettles were grateful to everyone who has written letters or appeared in person to say that Rodriquez should be denied parole.

"I'm thrilled and I'm relieved because throughout the process we've been hopeful that they would agree that he needs to remain behind bars," said Rawls, who accompanied the Zettles to the 2002 parole hearing. "At the same time, I'm very sadly aware that we'll have to go through this process again in just a few short years."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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