The Special Needs of Frank Gonzales Jr.

The Texas parole board let him out to die; instead, he got involved in a killing.

"It appears that we may not be getting the most accurate appraisals of these folks," Rodrigues admits. He also adds that he is concerned that news of Special Needs Parole is rapidly making its way across the state's inmate grapevine, gaining a reputation as a loophole to be exploited. Because of those concerns, Rodrigues says he has ordered Dee Kifowit, the director of the agency that oversees the program, to overhaul the Special Needs Parole system. In the meantime, says Rodrigues, the parole panel that gives final approval to requests for Special Needs Parole is taking nothing for granted.

"For example, if someone says he has AIDS, we think they should be tested," says Rodrigues, referring to the Russell case. "You would think that should have already been in place," says the parole board chairman, "but it wasn't."

Frank Gonzales Jr. says he doesn't want to die in prison. But these days, the chance of that happening seem doubly good. If his muscle disease doesn't do him in first, the state of Texas might. In August, Gonzales -- along with Eluid Salazar and Mark Cavazos -- will go on trial for murder in the death of Debra Jarrell. Because Cavazos was a minor at the time of the killing, he cannot be put to death for the crime. But Gonzales and Salazar are eligible for the death penalty, and Brazoria County prosecutors plan to seek it.

Gonzales says he thinks about Debra Jarrell and her family every day. He wishes that by giving up his life, he could bring hers back.

Jarrell's daughter, Jennifer Winsletz, wishes that were the case as well. "It hurts," she says, "that my son will never know how sweet his grandmother was.

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