HUNTINGTON — A new campaign ad released Monday by Woody Thrasher, one of six Republican challengers to Jim Justice in the state’s gubernatorial primary, alleges Justice freed a convicted Cabell County murderer among the 70 parolees released amid pandemic precautions in March, but the Division of Corrections says the man was mistakenly listed in a Freedom of Information Act release.
The ad claims Michael David Day was released among the prisoners, claiming Justice cannot be trusted to keep West Virginians safe. Day was convicted of first-degree murder in the 2002 killing of Gerald E. “Bird” King Jr., who lived in a camp on the embankment of the Ohio River. Day, who was 17 at the time of the crime, was sentenced to life in prison without mercy.
Despite the sentence, Day, now 35, was granted parole in 2017 after a 2012 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that said teenagers cannot be sentenced to life without mercy and subsequent state legislation.
Day was arrested in January and booked in the Western Regional Jail on an alleged parole violation, said Lawrence Messina, spokesman for the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. He was released March 27 after serving his full 60-day graduated sanction for the violation.
Messina said because Day’s release coincided with the parolees released early from their sanctions, he was mistakenly included on the list included in the FOIA request.
Thrasher’s campaign maintains Justice released a convicted murder into the community.
“Only after Woody Thrasher publicly questioned it did the administration suddenly feel the need to change its story,” said Ann Ali, campaign manager for Thrasher, in a statement. “It sure seems like they’re playing politics with the safety of our families.”
Day is still on parole in Cabell County, and all the parolees released early from serving their sanctions are also still under supervision of the DOC.
In the statement, Ali also points out Day was charged with drug trafficking in Ohio, but those charges were dropped, according to documents from the Lawrence County Clerk of Courts.