INWOOD — Jason Minter's recent crusade to keep his mother's killers in prison received its first victory this week, just as the Inwood cafe owner launches a larger campaign to reduce the frequency of parole board hearings for the perpetrators of violent crimes.
Willie Profit, 61, was denied release by the New York State Division of Parole Monday, for his part in the 1977 rape and murder of Sheila Watson and Bonnie Minter. The decision came little over a week after Jason Minter started a petition asking for a denial of parole for Profit and two other accomplices, James Walls and Samuel Ayala.
But Minter's campaign to keep his mother's killers incarcerated is not yet complete, as Walls and Ayala will go before the parole board in their own hearings next week. Ayala will be going before the board twice — once next week, and he has a second hearing in February.
The three men were sentenced to life in prison for the killings, and have been denied parole over a dozen times since 2002.
Jason Minter was just 6 years old on March 2, 1977, when Profit, Walls and Ayala broke into Sheila Watson's home, raped and shot Watson and Bonnie Minter while Jason, his 3-year-old sister, and Watson's two children cowered in the next room.
This week the parole board issued a forceful rebuke of Profit, who was convicted in 1978. "Your release would be incompatible with the welfare of society and would so deprecate the serious nature of the crime as to undermine respect for the law," the board wrote in a statement to the inmate Monday.
In the past, Minter and his sister have written letters to the parole board, asking for continued incarceration of the inmmates. The siblings became worried about Ayala's possible release after Ayala's family started their own letter-writing campaign.
Stepping up their efforts, the Minters called the board this year and gave victim impact statements. Jason Minter then started the petition.
The story of Jason Minter's effort to keep the convicts behind bars became worldwide news, appearing in the UK's The Daily Mail and drawing more than 6,000 signatures from across the globe to the petition.
Minter said Wednesday his family was thankful for the support but that reliving the ordeal has been trying.
"We're all in a lot of pain over it," Minter said.
If the men are denied parole, they will be eligible for review again in 2016.
Minter, 43, is now pushing for reform to the parole board process in the hopes of increasing the time between hearings for violent crime convicts who are denied parole. He is joined in this fight by Brooks Prouty, a family friend of the Minters, whose grandmother, Eleanor Prouty was raped and murdered three years after Minter and Watson. Brooks Prouty fought a his own battle to keep one of his grandmother's murderers in prison last year.
"It's so painful to revisit all of this," Prouty, 48, told DNAinfo. "Part of the benefit [of reform] is it gives families a chance to heal and a chance to forget about it."
Prouty added: "After these guys were in jail for 25 years, to have to revisit it year after year is really inhumane."
Minter and Prouty would like to see the wait time between hearings for violent criminals increase from two to five years. Twin pieces of legislation in the state senate and assembly would do just that. The senate bill- S2486 - passed last May. The assembly bill, A.2774, is still at the committee level.
State Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa's office declined to comment on whether they supported the bill. State Senator Adriano Espaillat, along with the entire Manhattan senate conference, voted against the senate bill in May, arguing that the wording of the bill would not discriminate between violent convicts and those convicted of lesser crimes and as such would disproportionately affect Black and Latino inmates.
Espaillat's office said the senator does favor parole reform, and noted that Espaillat sent a letter to the parole board asking for the denial of Profit, Walls and Ayala. The letter was signed by Rosa, Assemblyman Herman Farrell, and city Councilmen Ydanis Rodriguez and Mark Levine.