America’s Longest Serving Female Inmate Walks Free After 49 Years Behind Bars
Betty Smithey, 69, walked out of Perrysville state prison Monday after serving 49 years for strangling a 15-month old baby to death. Mere hours after appearing before the Arizona parole board, Smithey re-entered the free world with the aid of cane. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer granted Betty Smithey clemency when the parole board determined the convicted murderer was no longer a danger to society.
Betty Smithey was incarcerated at the Perrysville state prison in Arizona in 1963 for the murder of baby Sandy Gerberick. The Arizona parole board decided Smithey was “no longer the same woman” as she was when she strangled the infant, according to the Daily Mail. The parole board voted 4-1 to release America’s longest serving female inmate without any community supervision mandates.
“It’s wonderful driving down the road and not seeing any barbed wire. I am lucky, so very lucky,” Smithey stated during an interview with the Arizona Republic.
Smithey is what is known as an “old-code lifer” in Arizona. Inmates sentenced to life before 1973 are required to garner clemency from the governor before becoming eligible for parole. Three such inmates have been released since 1989. In 1994 and 2003 Smithey also applied for clemency but was denied release by then governors Fife Symington and Janet Napolitano.
In 1959 Smithey kidnapped toddler Mitchell Johnson before she murdered Sandy Gerberick. Photos of Betty Smithey holding Johnson in her arms attracted a lot of bidders on ebay. The longest serving female inmate in the United States was employed as a nanny for the baby she strangled to death and the child’s three siblings. Smithey was arrested while hitchhiking a day after the murder on a nearby highway. Smithey managed to escape from prison four times between 1974 and 1981. In 1983 Sandy Gerberick’s mother Emma Simmons sent Betty Smithey a letter noting she had forgiven her for murdering the baby.