South Dakota man serving life for manslaughter up for parole

Sioux Falls, South Dakota (AP) January 2011

Thirty years after then-17-year-old Tim Caffrey shot his adoptive father to death in their South Dakota home, he is getting a chance at freedom.

Departing Gov. Mike Rounds has commuted Caffrey’s life sentence for manslaughter to 237 years, making him eligible for parole. The Board of Pardons and Paroles could release Caffrey in March, The Argus Leader newspaper reports.

The board in 1991 and 2003 unsuccessfully recommended commutation. Rounds assented last week, three years after the board again suggested he reduce the sentence in the 1981 shooting death of William Caffrey in Martin.

Supporters of Tim Caffrey, an American Indian, say he had been tormented by his white father’s verbal and physical abuse and that life without parole is too severe a penalty for the killing.

“He definitely deserved punishment but not a life sentence,” said Arnie Berkeland, a retired Sioux Falls businessman who long has advocated for Caffrey’s release and has visited him in prison hundreds of times. Berkeland told the Argus Leader that he and his wife have agreed to take Caffrey into their home if he is released.

Judge Larry Long, who prosecuted Caffrey in 1981 when Long was Bennett County’s state’s attorney, has said Caffrey is a psychopath who will kill again if released.

A two-member parole board panel is to hear from Caffrey on Feb. 9. If the panel recommends parole, the full board will consider the matter in March, board Executive Director Ed Ligtenberg said.