By Andrew Binion Kitsap Sun
PORT ORCHARD — Every day before she climbs the stairs at the Kitsap County Courthouse to her job in the Superior Court clerk’s office, Gina Vinecourt walks by a memorial to her father, Deputy Dennis R. Allred.
“I don’t want people to forget him, I appreciate when people remember,” Vinecourt said. “But mostly the memorial brings me comfort. I’m very proud that it is there.”
Allred was shot multiple times during a traffic stop on Illahee Road in 1978, three minutes before his shift ended. Vinecourt was 8 years old. Saturday marks the 36th anniversary of his death and this month also mark’s Allred’s birthday. He would have been 66.
Allred’s killer, Nedley Norman Jr., 58, is up for parole and went before a state sentencing board last month. A decision is expected in the coming months.
Vinecourt, Sheriff’s Office officials and a deputy prosecutor addressed the board. They requested that Norman stay where he is, at the Airway Heights Corrections Center near Spokane.
“These are circumstances a family and community cannot wash away or forget,” sheriff’s office Patrol Chief Gary Simpson said in a statement. “It is forever part of our being, forever a part of our lives.”
Although Allred died more than three decades ago, the heartbreak and loss are still an everyday part of Vinecourt’s life.
And she will continue to attend any hearing or address any board to ensure people know the crime is not forgotten, and the pain remains sharp.
“I will always fight for (Norman) to remain where he put himself,” she said. “This is a consequence of his actions.”
As a Christian, Vinecourt has forgiven Norman. But that does not mean she has forgotten, nor that she believes Norman has atoned for his crime.
At a resentencing hearing in 1991, the first time she testified about her loss and keeping Norman in prison, she was 21. She is now 44.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” she said.
Although Allred’s murder changed her and cursed her childhood with a real life boogeyman to fear when the lights went out, she treasures the memories of her father. He played guitar, sang and wrote songs. He had a Chevy muscle car he liked to race. He would place her hand on the orange 76 gas station ball on the stick shift, his hand over hers, and they would shift gears together heading down the road.
“I can still see my hand in his hand,” she said.
Norman belongs to an aging cohort of prison inmates sentenced before a sentencing law change in July 1984. These inmates have their parole requests reviewed by the state Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board. The youngest are in their 40s, some are in their 80s, and most of them with maximum life sentences, said Lynne DeLano, chairwoman of the board. There are about 250 inmates in the group.
“That’s pretty much what’s left,” she said.
About 25 to 30 percent of inmates in the cohort end up being paroled.
A Pierce County court sentenced him to death in 1978. In 1981 the state’s death penalty was struck down, which resulted in a life sentence without parole. A federal court changed his sentence in 1991 to make him eligible for parole. With reduced time for good behavior, he was eligible for release after 33 years. Because the maximum sentence for Norman is life, if he was released, he would be under supervision until death.
DeLano said members have to believe an inmate has been fully rehabilitated and they are fit for release.
“We definitely don’t want to see them create more victims,” DeLano said, noting that members must consider public safety as a paramount concern.
Each time Vinecourt testifies, she feels like she goes through the loss and heartbreak all over. She transforms back like the 8-year-old girl standing at her father’s casket the day of his funeral, trying to makes sense of the loss. She can remember her bewilderment, and blaming herself, and telling him if he only would come back she would be a good girl.
“When I talk about him, that’s who is talking to you, that little girl,” Vinecourt said. “When it comes to him, I’m always 8 and he is always 30. I don’t think I’ll ever change that. I’m still his little girl.”