“I have to be honest with you, I couldn’t breathe."
Just the letter alone notifying Audrey and Bruce Carlson that their daughter Elizabeth’s ex-boyfriend and murderer had applied for commutation was enough to send these parents back to the worst day of their lives at their Newington home 20 years ago.
“He broke into our home, hidden, lying in wait in our master bathroom with pockets full of bullets, intending to kill Elizabeth, chased our other daughter out of the house and we were forced into a world that we just didn’t know,” Audrey said.
On Tuesday, the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles denied 49-year-old Jonathan Carney’s request to reduce his punishment after serving just 21 years of his 42-year plea bargain.
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It's an option the family didn’t know was even on the table for Carney until just years ago when the board started accepting commutation applications from eligible inmates once again.
“We believed in the law, and we believed it would be ironclad,” Audrey said.
“This is an incredibly broad scope of responsibility, which I think needs to be tightened up,” Bruce said.
Through more than 1,000 emails largely spear-headed by Elizabeth’s sister from friends, family, law enforcement and legal experts to the board, the outcome ended up in their favor, but Leslie Schlachter wants to make sure other families don’t have to face the same battle.
“Our job is now not only just to keep her memory alive in the way that we can, but to work hard to change the wording on this legislation, where that it can exclude situations like this where there was, you know, murder plea bargain,” Schlachter said.
Carney will be able to apply for commutation again in five years, but if it’s up to this family, the state’s rules on lessening sentences will be changed before then.
“I’m trying to breathe again; however, our work is not done,” Audrey said.