After (Pattie) Gale Vantrease finished her statement to the Parole Board, the families were excused while they deliberated. I have no idea where the Vantrease family was taken, and I really didn’t care as long as I didn’t have them in my field of vision. Kari (my daughter) and I were taken just outside the hearing room.
Again, this is my personal account of this portion of the parole hearing. Perhaps others see it differently? This post is filled with my opinion and how I perceived events. I believe it to be entirely accurate, but make no such claim. Not that I care what the Vantrease family thinks, but I certainly don’t want the Parole Board upset with me and think I’m embellishing anything.
Time seemed to drag as we waited. It seemed like an hour. I could practically hear some sort of cosmic clock ticking in my head. In reality, it was probably somewhere between five and ten minutes. The Huttonsville Prison Victim Advocate filled us in on what was about to transpire, and it helped keep my mind focused. When they finished, I put my arm on Kari’s shoulder and waited, not saying much. I was planning how I’d handle the decision and concluded that I would act the same no matter. Did I really have a choice anyhow? Fact is, I knew all along I’d remain silent and expressionless (as possible). It was out of my hands. Still, this futile exercise allowed my mind to not worry.
The hearing room door opens. A guard informs us the Parole Board made its decision. I feel my stomach sink. It’s the same sensation as being on a roller coaster when the negative g-forces pull you from the seat at the top of a hill. I take a deep breath, exhaling entirely too long and find Kari’s shoulder again. I give her gentle hug.
As I’m embracing my daughter, I’m looking behind her; into the parole room. I think, “Hugging is the best way to watch each other’s back“, and make a point of remembering this epiphany to share with you. I’m amazed at just how clever it makes me sound! Seriously though, isn’t it true on several levels?
We walk in together. I feel numb.
Now, I don’t recall if the Vantrease family was already in there or not. They meant nothing to me. I was entirely focused on the setting of the room. I immediately noticed Austin Vantrease, sitting where he had the entire time since he shuffled out of the holding cell just off the hearing room. The difference now being the posture of the guards. They had him circled. Tightly. Much more than before, that was clear. They were watching him closely; ready to act, if needed.
I took this as a good sign.
Then I started to wonder if, instead of potentially needing to control him, they might be protecting him… from me? Is this possible? Yes, I suppose it is.
I searched the room for more clues to the forthcoming decision. It’s so void and stark that it had nothing to offer. It was the “poker face” of all rooms. I looked to the Parole Board, but they were painfully neutral. I returned my attention to the guards.
They are facing Austin Vantrease, bending at the hips ever so slightly. They’re not actively monitoring the families. This is good, right? I decided it was and felt the relief sweep over me… actually, more like “up” me. It truly felt like it came from the ground and worked its way up, then through, my head. Like I was overflowing. Weird.
The Parole Board didn’t waste any time. They immediately said his parole is denied. From where I’m sitting, behind and to the left, I see no change in Austin Vantrease’s demeanor. The Board continues. Quite bluntly, because Austin Vantrease “is not ready for society.” He is also reminded of the four write-ups on his recent prison record. He is told he should strongly consider getting a prison job. “At this time, we don’t feel letting you out today would serve the public, and the main purpose of this board is public safety”.
I held it together until then, but the relief was too much. At first my eyes began to well-up. Then leak. I tried to cover this by making it seem as though I was tending to insatiable eye strain. Just imagine how you rub your eyes after reading for a very long time if you want to get an appreciation for what I was faking. Kari noticed it right away though, and it confused her.
She leans into my ear and whispers, “What’s wrong? This is a good thing, right?”. I nod, squeeze her hand (that I just then realized I was holding entirely too tightly) and failed at my first attempt in whispering back to her. I silently clear my throat. “Yes, it’s a very good thing”. She then scolds me for scaring her and we both sneak a smile at each other. I love that she holds me accountable and I am again reminded of just how well she turned-out. I appreciate that she looks out for her “Pops”. Her loyalty to me and our family never waivers. Like Ryan, she’s as strong as they come. Fortunate is the person who earns her love and respect, as her loyalty is a derivative. I love her so much. She makes me proud to be her father. Yes, they are both made of the right stuff.
A Parole Board member begins speaking and I snap out of my trance.
Austin is, essentially told to get it together (again, my opinion). The guards escort him from the room and I watch him go out of sight. Next to leave is the Vantrease family. This is going according to the protocol the Victim Advocate explained earlier; they want to get the losers out first because they are deemed higher risk. I’m happy it’s not us! I’m delighted to wait for them to leave the prison grounds before we can go.
After all, they have a history of loitering about and causing chaos after unfavorable outcomes.
When I’m certain the felon’s family is out of the room, I begin sobbing. With each heave, it gets worse. It’s relief. I’m angry that I’m doing this, but can do nothing to stop myself. Instead, I continue trying to hide it. I fail… miserably.