On her fourth attempt at parole, Colorado Springs' notorious "fatal attraction killer" Jennifer Reali again pleaded for her freedom on the merits she's a changed woman.
"It makes me mad, very mad, that somehow I could come to a place that I did that," Reali told the two parole board members who will decide whether to continue her sentence or advance her case to full-board consideration. "That person is dead and gone, and I'm glad. She needed to go."
In 1990, the then 28-year-old Reali donned camouflage and a ski mask when she gunned down Dianne Hood, the mother of three and the wife of Reali's lover, Brian Hood, as the woman was leaving a lupus support meeting in Colorado Springs. Reali testified that Hood persuaded her to kill his wife. He claimed Bible verses inspired the plot, saying it was "God's plan."
Reali was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, and received a life sentence. However, Gov. Bill Ritter commuted her sentence in 2011, making her eligible for parole.
She had already started working toward being a better person by then, Reali said Wednesday during her 35-minute hearing.
She's been especially active the last two years, after being accepted into the Intensive Supervision Parole Inmate program, or ISPI, which allows her to live life unshackled in a Denver apartment with a cat and a dog, drive a vehicle and hold a job.
She works at Inside Out Ministries, helping connect other offenders to resources, which she says reduces recidivism. It's how she gives back to the "society I hurt so bad," she said.
She also blogs and speaks at community churches.
"I can't honor my victim's death by being a hooligan," Reali said.
She alluded only once to why her white hair was buzzed so short her scalp showed in parts. She said she is again undergoing chemotherapy treatments for pancreatic cancer, for which she was diagnosed in 2014.
The treatments "have been very successful," she said.
Her wrinkled face, without makeup, made her look older than her age, 55, but her voice remained clear and strong, except for when she talked about the killing.
She wiped away tears as she recounted shooting Dianne Hood twice, once as the woman tried to run from what Reali called "a very poor rendition of theft," and again after Dianne fell.
"He (Brian) had said there had to be two shots because she had to be dead," Reali said as she fiddled with a black pocketbook in her lap. "I felt really trapped."
She described the act as "evil," "darkness," and "cruelty."
If released, Reali said she plans to stay in the same apartment and continue her work with the ministry. She's also starting trauma therapy counseling, as recommended following her most recent mental health evaluation, she said. Her first session is Wednesday.
"The woman that I have been is the complete opposite of who I was in 1990," Reali said. "I can't prove to anybody what my thoughts are. I can only show people who I am by how I act.
"I believe in redemption."
It could be a few days before Reali learns whether her plea will move on to the full parole board for consideration. She advanced last year for the first time but ultimately was denied.
Knowing the routine, Reali offered no other explanations and asked no questions. She thanked the board members as she left the Englewood office, getting into her older model Jeep Cherokee, popping on a pair of sunglasses and driving away.
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