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Inmate may get early release

BISMARCK - The North Dakota Parole Board approved a plan Monday that trims 15 months off convicted Grand Forks murderer James Leroy Iverson's prison sentence, but all of it will be at a transition center or veterans shelter under strict condition...

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BISMARCK - The North Dakota Parole Board approved a plan Monday that trims 15 months off convicted Grand Forks murderer James Leroy Iverson's prison sentence, but all of it will be at a transition center or veterans shelter under strict conditions, including GPS monitoring.

He told the board he has no intention of returning to Grand Forks, where he murdered two women, Carol Mayers and Diane Bill, who were both 25, in 1968. Iverson, 69, has spent nearly 40 years in prison and is the state's longest-serving inmate.

Iverson's parole will begin in August when he is sent to the Bismarck Transition Center, which the State Penitentiary uses to ease inmates back into community life. After nine months there, he is expected to be accepted into the HART homeless veterans' shelter in Fargo for the final six months of his parole and up to two years total. But that is only after the board reviews his case again in early 2010.

His sentence expires, with or without parole, on Nov. 7, 2010, after which authorities will have no jurisdiction over his movements or activities. He has been housed at the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's minimum-security facility in Bismarck since June.

When he is released in August to the Department of Corrections' Bismarck Transition Center, his every move will be tracked by GPS, and he'll be constrained by several other conditions.

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For the first nine months, he will not be allowed to leave Burleigh and Morton counties and could also face continued travel restrictions for the remainder of the 15 months.

Iverson has been well-behaved in prison but admits he'll need a lot of help when he tries to live in the regular world after 40 years.

"I mean, gasoline was only 15 cents (per gallon) when I came here. You could get an apartment for $50," he said.

He is diabetic and has recurring health problems with one leg, on which he has had 10 surgeries and for which he wears a built-up shoe. He has two sons, one of whom lives in Mandan, he said.

Parole Board Chairman John M. Olson grilled Iverson about the crimes he committed before the murders, starting in about 1958, when he was 18 or 19. In every case when he was committing crimes, Iverson said, he was drunk. He has no desire to drink now, he said.

But Iverson never plainly admits he committed the murders of Mayers and Bill. While he says he must have done it, he says he doesn't remember it and believes he was in an alcoholic blackout. But he admitted to the board that he caused "a big hurt" to his victims' families and realizes he'll probably not convince them he is a different person now.

Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. She can be reached at (701) 224-0830 or forumcap@btinet.net

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