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Should Huron Child Murderer Debra Jenner-Tyler Get Parole? [Opinion]

Courtesy Wacky Universe via YouTube
Courtesy Wacky Universe via YouTube

It was April of 1987, Abby Lynn Jenner of Huron, South Dakota should have been waking to another spring morning, as a happy, healthy 3-year-old. Instead she was found in her bed, deceased. Her little hands frozen in a defensive pose and holding her murderer’s hair. Her mother’s hair.

I remember the shock, disgust and bewilderment I felt as I followed Debra Jenner’s trial for homicide. As the details of this beautiful little girl’s demise were revealed, the revulsion grew. Abby Jenner was stabbed 70 times with a kitchen knife and a toy airplane. To this day, just imagining her terror, the horror of what little Abby was thinking and feeling is stomach-churning. How could any mother do that to her child?

I’ve heard all the reasons: temporary insanity, post-partum depression, stress, drugs and alcohol, psychosis, the list goes on. I know it happens all over the world and that it probably always will. That doesn’t make it any easier to comprehend how any of those circumstances transform a parent into a monster.

For her unconscionable act, she was sentenced to life without parole. Debra Jenner spent 16 years denying she was the murderer. However, her utterances the morning Abby’s battered body was discovered, made it crystal clear; she was the evil, unhinged creature which dispatched her helpless child in such a vicious manner.

In fact all the evidence pointed to her. There was no forced entry into the home, all the doors and windows were locked and Abby’s father was exonerated of any part in the crime, almost immediately. During those 16 years, people who were duped into believing in Debra’s innocence, raised money, started a website and prayed for her. Good people.

In 2003 Governor Janklow offered to commute Jenner’s sentence to 100 years (meaning she could possibly gain parole) if and only if she admitted her guilt. She took the offer, but continued telling people she was innocent and only admitted it in hopes of obtaining her freedom.

At a previous parole hearing, she told the board her reasons for brutalizing her daughter included: “working long days”, stress and because Abby was “fussy and hadn’t slept much for three days”. So far her request for parole has been denied every time. Her next hearing is in July.

The arguments for granting parole include: she has been a model prisoner, she has helped other inmates continue their education, she has served almost 30 years and is remorseful for the murder. Her son, who was just four at the time of his sister’s murder, says he has forgiven his mother and so should the rest of us.

Unfortunately, for me, I suppose, I’m not much of a forgiver of evil, I tend to carry a grudge. I honestly believe Debra Jenner-Tyler is exactly where she belongs.

If you are a true crime devotee like me I encourage reading both the summary of the original murder trial and the South Dakota Supreme Court summary of one of Jenner-Tyler’s appeals. They are fascinating in all their nightmarish detail.

Sources:The Capitol Journal, The Sioux City Journal, South Dakota Unified Judicial System and South Dakota Find-a-Case

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