Virginia Parole Board under fire for releasing convicted killer, family member fighting back


SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Parole Board remains under fire for releasing some convicted killers before their sentences were up during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

One of those released brutally attacked Mark Brinkley’s 78-year-old grandmother Bessie Rountree in her Suffolk home in 1979. She was confronted, forced into a car, forced to drive, returned to the home — where she was robbed of $10 — raped, and attacked with a knife.  

Brinkley, who was 15 at the time, is emotional and has to catch his breath to remember what he saw.

“I saw my grandmother laying on the floor. My mother, my brother, and I were the ones who found her. It’s kind of hard to see your grandmother laying there in blood, with a knife stuck in her chest.” 

Patrick Schooley Jr. was also 15 at the time. He was convicted of capital murder and given three life sentences.

But after 41 years, Schooley got out of prison on April 30.

“They did not inform us, or anyone on the Rountree side of the family, that Schooley was released. I do feel violated because of that, and I want someone to be held accountable,” Brinkley said.  

Brinkley is part of a loud chorus of critics calling for members of the Virginia Parole Board to resign for releasing 95 violent felons in 30 days, and allegedly failing to properly inform many victims’ families as required by state code. 

10 On Your Side reached out to the new Virginia Parole Board Chairwoman Tonya Chapman, but she did not return our request for a statement.  She has told us in the past she was not on the board for the controversial decisions, including the release of inmate Vincent Martin who killed Richmond Police Officer Michael Conners.

The Office of the Inspector General said allegations that the board didn’t follow the rules in releasing Martin were substantiated.

“The allegations that the (Virginia Parole Board) and former (Virginia Parole Board) Chair Adrianne Bennett violated (Code of Virginia) statutes and (Virginia Parole Board) policies and procedures regarding the release of (Department of Corrections) offender (Vincent Martin) are substantiated.”

Bennett resigned from the board once she was appointed as a Juvenile Domestic Relations judge in Virginia Beach. She has refused repeated requests for comment.  

“There is outrage from the many constituents in the Commonwealth of Virginia that contact my office,” state Sen. Tommy Norment, (R-James City County), said.

“I have called on the Parole Board to resign or be fired by Governor Northam … my pragmatism tells me there is absolutely no way that this governor is going to require anyone on that parole board to resign,” he said. 

Brinkley has actually gone to Richmond, and was asked to leave the Parole Board’s office.

“To this day, I cannot get an interview or a conference with Governor Northam. I don’t know what his problem is, but I got a big damn problem.” 

Brinkley wanted to tell the governor that his family should have been notified before Schooley got released. Even the prosecutor in the original case, Commonwealth’s Attorney Phil Ferguson, wasn’t notified.

“I never got contacted by the Parole Board. I found out the day before release from the Department of Corrections. I always think transparency  is a good thing, and I think in light of what has occurred and in light of what I have seen in the cases from Suffolk, I think it will be a welcome situation … if that were to happen.” 

Ferguson is referring to Tuesday’s General Assembly special session where Senate Republicans will push to make the embattled Parole Board more transparent. That effort will be led by Norment.

“There is no reason to grant a blanket and comprehensive exemption to the Parole Board from the Freedom of Information Act.” 

On Friday, Brinkley left angry.

“The way Schooley killed my grandmother, that’s the way he should’ve died — a slow, painful death, with my family members there watching.” 

Brinkley says the only closure he will get is if the man who killed grandmother is put back in prison. That won’t happen unless he violates the conditions of his parole.

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