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Early release of convicted murderer draws CA’s ire

South Boston News
Debra Kaye Scribner / April 23, 2020
Convicted of murder in 2012 and sentenced to 23 years and six months in prison, Debra Kaye Scribner of Halifax County has been released on parole — and Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Q. Martin is irate with the move.

“This is a travesty of justice!” Martin wrote via email.

The decision by the Virginia Parole Board to shorten Scribner’s sentence — she was being held at the Central Virginia Correctional Center Unit No. 13 in Chesterfield County — flouts state law that requires the board to notify victims of a crime and hear their evidence before granting a release to the perpetrator, Martin alleged.

“While the Board acknowledges that ‘[c]rime has a tremendous impact on victims,’ it has wholly failed to consider the interest of the victims or the community in this case,” Martin wrote in an April 20 letter to Parole Board chair Tonya D. Chapman.

Scribner “was released to return to the community, it seems, before the ink was dry” on an April 6 letter informing the county prosecutor’s office of the parole decision, Martin wrote.

The victim who should have been allowed to weigh in prior to Scribner’s release, Martin continued, was Kevin Wynn, brother of Eric Wynn.

Eric Wynn’s murder in 2011 led to charges against his wife, Connie Ferguson Wynn, his then-teenage son, Dylan Wynn, and Scribner, mother of Connie Wynn and co-conspirator in the plot to kill Eric Wynn, a jury found. Scribner, a former employee of the Department of Social Services and bookkeeper for various businesses in town, also went by her former name of Debbie Ferguson. She was 57 at the time of the April 2011 killing.

A Halifax County jury found that Connie Wynn and Debra Scribner conspired to kill Connie’s husband Eric — by multiple accounts an abusive husband — by convincing then-15-year-old Dylan to carry out the crime. Dylan Wynn shot his father as he slept and the trio then threw his remains down a well at the family home in the Elmo area.

After testifying on behalf of the Commonwealth at the trial of his mother and grandmother, Dylan Wynn was allowed to serve out his sentence at a juvenile detention center before statutorily aging out of the system upon reaching his 21st birthday.

Connie Wynn, who was in her mid-30s at the time of the killing, received 35 year behind bars and remains incarcerated at a Fluvanna women’s prison. Scribner, now 66, has been set free.

The Chesterfield County jail facility where Scribner has been housed until recently has seen a high number of COVID-19 cases. However, it is unknown if Scribner’s release is related to the pandemic.

Gov. Ralph Northam has called on corrections and court officials to take proactive measures to reduce the risk of the virus in vulnerable jail facilities, and expedite the release of elderly and medically-compromised inmates when appropriate.

Weighing against these considerations is the argument put forth by Martin in her letter to the parole board. Martin wrote that Kevin Wynn, brother of the slain man, “wishes to present evidence about the impact the release has had (and is having) on the family.

“Likewise, I wish to add to the fullness of your record and to voice my objection to the release of Debra Scribner on behalf of my community,” wrote Martin.

Among the actions that violate state law, she added, is the failure by the Parole Board to notify the Halifax Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office of Scribner’s release by certified mail, 21 days in advance.

“The Parole Board failed to follow the law in this regard,” Martin wrote.

If the Parole Board had endeavored to notify Kevin Wynn of the decision, it could have found him at the same address he had in 2012 — same post office box, zip code, even the same phone number, Martin wrote.

“Informing the victim that the law did not protect them is difficult,” Martin continued in her letter. “Informing them that the law would have protected them, but the people in power did not — that they instead ignored the law — is unspeakably tragic.”

Alluding to the possibility that Scribner’s early release is related to the coronavirus crisis, Martin added in her letter that she did not know if the Parole Board acted unintentionally by failing to communicate its decision to the local prosecutor’s office. Such an oversight “would be forgivable in our current environment, but only if the Parole Board makes it right,” Martin wrote.

Contacted by the Richmond Times-Dispatch about the matter, Chapman, the parole board chair, replied that she was reviewing the circumstances of the decision “and I will follow-up on your inquiry when I have more information to share,” the newspaper reported.

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