HOUSTON – For crime victims and their family members, the potential parole of an attacker is both terrifying and emotionally draining. Many family members also worry whether their concerns will be heard by the parole board prior to any decision. Houston Crime Stoppers is now addressing these concerns through a unique program that records victim impact statements to be used during the parole process.
Crime Stoppers started this program in 2021, but this is the first year the organization has spoken about it publicly. These videos preserve the voice of loved ones to ensure the parole board always understands the full extent of the loss victims and their families have endured.
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“I’m not the same person I used to be. She was my everything,” Yvette Menendez said in one video meant for parole board members.
Menendez and her sister, Yvonne Palmer, recently recorded a video for the potential parole of their mother’s killer, Dror Goldberg.
“I just can’t even believe we’re here 24 years later, 25 years later,” Palmer said on the video.
Goldberg was convicted of killing Manuela Silverio in 1998 and sentenced to 48 years in prison. Goldberg was recently denied parole and will not be reviewed again for five years.
Houston Crime Stoppers Director of Victim Services, Andy Kahan, came up with the idea of making these videos after hearing family members worry whether they would be alive at the time a killer comes up for parole, in good enough health to attend the hearing, or be able to afford to travel to where a hearing is taking place. Kahan said family statements do have an impact on the parole board’s decision on whether to release an offender.
“When I do the interviews, I’m not necessarily going over the actual offense itself. That’s pretty much already documented. But I want to hear from the family. What did this loss mean to you?” Kahan said.
Kahan said he keeps the videos to around 10 minutes and includes pictures of the victim and their family.
“I want the parole board to know who this person was, what they meant to your family, what the loss has done to your family,” Kahan said he tells those recording statements. “Quite frankly, it is simply a file that the parole board has; it’s like a box and a file. They don’t know the person who was murdered. I want you to bring them back to life.”
Kahan also helped Kiley Holbrook make a video for any potential parole hearing for her sister’s killer. Holbrook wasn’t even born when her 15-month-old sister, Chelsea McClellan, was murdered by notorious serial killer Genene Jones. The former pediatric nurse is not eligible for parole until 2037, which is when she will be 87. Holbrook made the video in case Jones survives and wants the parole board to know Jones is suspected of killing as many as 60 children.
“Genene Jones never showed remorse in prison,” Holbrook said in her video.
Kahan said this effort began in 2021 through a $110,000 grant from the Criminal Justice Division of the Governor’s Office. Kahan said they paused making videos during COVID but resumed the program in 2023. Kahan said 32 videos have been made with 20 more planned in 2024.
“You are preserved and you will always have a voice, no matter what happens to you in your life,” said Kahan.
Kahan said Crime Stoppers is now working to expand the program beyond Harris County cases. If you would like more information about this program please email Kahan at firstname.lastname@example.org.