Woman convicted of murdering Georgia girl in 1980s

The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles denied parole to the woman convicted of the 1982 brutal kidnapping and murder of 13-year-old Lisa Ann Millican.

Judith Ann Neelley has spent the last four decades in prison for committing a crime with her husband Alvin Neelley, who died behind bars in 2005. At the end of a crime spree, the couple kidnapped Millican from a shopping mall in Rome. Georgia and took her back to a motel in northeast Alabama.

There they raped and tortured her. While Alvin Neelley and the couple’s twin children were out for breakfast, Judith Ann Neelley took Millican to Little River Canyon. According to court records, she injected the child six times with drain cleaner, and when that didn’t kill her, Neelley shot the girl.

More: Who Was Lisa Ann Millican? A shortened life

“Three times over the next 24 hours, she called the police and told them they had found the body of a 13-year-old girl at the bottom of their ravine,” said Mike O’Dell, a district attorney prosecuting Neelley, said on Thursday. “She bragged about it.”

In the 40 years that O’Dell has served in the district attorney’s office, he said he has never met another person “as evil and depraved as Judith Ann Neelley.”

At the end of Neelley’s 16-day trial in 1983, a DeKalb County jury convicted her and recommended life in prison without parole. Judge Randall Cole disagreed. Instead, he sentenced Neelley to death in the electric chair.

In 1999, after spending over a decade on death row, Governor Fob James commuted Neelley’s death sentence to life imprisonment. The Alabama legislature tried to bar Neelley from the possibility of parole in 2003, but in 2018 that law was ruled unconstitutional.

Alvin Neelley was never charged with Millican’s murder. Instead, he pleaded guilty to another murder and aggravated assault in Georgia, where he was sentenced to life in prison. He died in 2005 at the age of 52.

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The story goes on

Throughout Neelley’s trial and up until her first parole hearing in 2018, defense attorneys argued that Neelley’s husband coerced her into committing the crime.

Before Thursday’s parole hearing, Gov. Kay Ivey sent a letter to the board requesting that parole be denied.

“I believe it was a mistake on the part of Governor James to commute Ms. Neelley’s death sentence in the first place – and to do so in a manner that would allow Ms. Neelley the possibility of parole,” Ivey wrote. “Now every five years, the wounds of these families are reopened as they wait with bated breath for your decision.”

The courtroom was packed on Thursday, but no one was present to plead for Neelley’s release. Relatives of their victims tearfully spoke about the family members they didn’t get to grow up with and called on the board to deny Neelley’s parole.

In 1983, Neelley pleaded guilty in Georgia to kidnapping and murdering 23-year-old Janice Chatman, whose daughter Deborah Callahan was present at the Montgomery parole hearing.

“This monster doesn’t deserve a chance to be free and enjoy his family or grandchildren,” Callahan said. “She has robbed two families of their chance and she shouldn’t be able to enjoy what we haven’t been able to enjoy for over 40 years.”

Neelley was absent from Thursday’s hearing. She will be eligible for parole again in May 2028.

Hadley Hitson reports on the rural South for the Montgomery Advertiser and Report for America. She can be reached at hhitson@gannett.com. To support their work, subscribe to the advertiser or donate to Report for America.

This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Judith Ann Neelley denied parole, convicted of murdering 13-year-old girl