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September 5, 2013

1985 crime revisited

State inmate seeks early release; fear haunts victim

NEW ALBANY — A Clark County man serving a 100-year prison sentence following a 1985 conviction appeared in a Floyd County court Wednesday in hopes of having the term reduced.

James Dale Stone, 50, returned to the same courtroom he was found guilty of rape, attempted murder, deviate conduct and criminal conversion when he was 22 years old in hopes of being placed on probation.

Also in the courtroom was the victim, who fears for her safety 28 years later and wants Stone to stay behind bars.

Presiding Floyd County Circuit Court Judge Terrence Cody is expected to rule in the next month whether Stone will be placed on probation, or if he will carry out his full sentence.

Inmates in state prisons are subject to release after serving half of their original sentences, which means even without a sentence modification, Stone could be released in 22 years.

By leaning on his nearly 30-year prison record of being an ideal inmate, including helping organize a therapeutic cat-adoption program for prisoners, which landed him a feature on MSNBC’s “Lockdown,” Stone is pinning his hopes on Cody.

Stone told the court, if his sentence is modified, he will go to live with this parents in Otisco.

Stone is being represented Perry McCall, of the Jeffersonville law firm Mosley, Bertrand, Jacobs and McCall, who said that his client continues to claim innocence.

Also in the courtroom was Angie Reardon, 49, Scott County, who Stone was convicted of raping, stabbing and beating while holding her hostage for nearly 20 hours.

Early in the hearing, Floyd County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Steve Owen told Cody that the court does not have the legal authority to modify Stone’s sentence.

Cody accepted Owen’s supporting case law, then allowed McCall to question Stone before the court.

McCall and Stone displayed for the court that while incarcerated Stone was not only involved, but excelled at many of the career and counseling programs available to inmates.

Stone said his accomplishments in prison includes organizing a garden cared for by inmates, which grows produce eaten at the prison and donated to homeless shelters, and starting a landscaping apprenticeship that gives inmates skills to help earn an income after their releases.

Stone explained to the court that he also constructively served his time by taking computer classes offered by Ivy Tech and through a janitorial program he accepted the task of cleaning food and feces from the walls, ceilings and floors of the cells of mentally ill inmates because he wanted to prevent the spread of disease.

He said he entered prison life not knowing how to thread a needle, but later became top-tier tailor in the facility and even stitched correctional officers’ uniforms.

He said he was able to put his carpenter skills to use while incarcerated and that cabinets he built 25 years ago are still in use.

Stone told Cody his goal is to open an animal shelter and wood-working shop if his sentence is reduced.

“I am not going to say I deserve anything,” Stone said when McCall asked why his prison sentence should be cut short. “I’ve worked and studied and worked and studied more. I just ask a chance to prove myself.”

If Stone's working with animals and in career services is admirable, Owen is not impressed enough to justify an abbreviated sentence.

“This case is not about him raising rabbits or cats or being on MSNBC,” Owen said. “What he does in prison, in my opinion, is up to him. His 25 years in prison pales in comparison to the 20 hours of hell that he put Mrs. Reardon through.”

He said when inmates push for bond modifications and case dismissals, it is the victims who suffer by having to relive the crimes.

While in prison, Stone not only worked to improve himself, including becoming sober through a substance-abuse program nearly 20 years ago, he also became engaged.

He said he is planning to marry a Philadelphia nurse who had written to him after seeing his segment on “Lockdown.”

Stone found love in prison, but also personal heartache, saying in court that his 18-year-old son and 11-year-daughter died while he was behind bars.

After McCall’s questioning of Stone during the hearing, Owen declined cross examination.

Owen did call Reardon for questioning, who said she had met Stone at a bar then gave him a ride to his Blackiston Mill Road home. From there, Stone asked her for a ride to a friend’s home, and Reardon obliged, but said she was later taken captive in her own vehicle.

The two drove around for hours, Reardon said, as Stone would make stops to rape and severely beat her.

At their last stop, along Interstate 64, he stabbed her twice in the back, but she was able to escape and stop a passing motorist on the highway.

She said after the driver saw her in such distress, he became frightened and drove away. She was later picked up from the side of the road by another motorist who loaded her into the back of a pick up truck and took her to Floyd Memorial Hospital.

At the hospital, blood was pumped from her lungs, and Reardon was later told by the staff that is was a miracle she had survived.

Reardon identified Stone as the man that assaulted her by selecting his picture from a group of photos shown to her in the hospital.

McCall pointing out during the hearing that investigators randomly put Stone in the photo line up and that he was not a primary suspect at that time.

Responding to Owen’s questions, Reardon said that she does not want to see Stone’s sentence reduced, and she is still haunted by the assault 28 years later.

After the hearing, Reardon said is was difficult for to be in Stone’s presence, something she has not done since the 1985 trial.

“It was very difficult,” she said. “It was bringing back a lot of old memories and flashbacks that I’ve tried to get past.”

Reardon said she fears for her life if Stone is given his freedom.

“I am scared that he may come after me for thinking it is my fault he is [in prison]. I am worrying if he does it to someone else, they may not be as lucky to live as I have.”

 

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