RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – A Guilford County man who has been serving a life sentence in a murder-for-hire case that became the subject of a true-crime TV episode is going to be released from state prison.

The North Carolina Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission, which for months has been granting parole for some inmates convicted of crimes that occurred before October 1994, announced last week that it would release Leroy W. Wentzel, who is serving life for second-degree murder plus 30 years for additional charges.

But parole may or may not be happening for another man who has been serving life related to second-degree murder charges in Forsyth County in 1991.

The commission said in a release that it was suspending its investigation into possible parole of Marvin L. Little, 53, under its Mutual Agreement Parole Program, a scholastic and vocational program that is a three-way agreement among the commission, the Division of Prisons and the offender.

But the second paragraph of that announcement said that the commission is conducting an investigation into his possible parole, just a bit more confusion in a case with another odd twist.

That contradiction could be a typographical error or could indicate the parole consideration would be conducted separate from MAPP program. WGHP reached out to the commission for clarification, but the office was closed on Monday because of the state’s celebration of New Year’s Day.

North Carolina had abolished parole in cases involving murder and rape as of Oct. 1, 1994, and the commission has been charged with considering the parole of offenders who were sentenced under guidelines before that date. The commission sometimes seeks public comment on whether that parole should be granted.

The parole commission didn’t announce a date for Wentzel’s release, and if its evaluation of Little is continuing, the commission will gather input from persons who were involved. The commission announces decisions typically within 10 days, although the MAPP program requires more time to complete.

Leroy W. Wentzel (NC DOC)

Wentzel’s case

Wentzel was convicted on June 10, 1995, in Guilford County Superior Court of luring his brother-in-law to a remote location and killing him for cash, but his crimes were committed on April 25, 1991, thus placing him in the program. The commission announced in October it was considering his parole.

In addition to a life sentence for his second-degree murder charge, Wentzel also has two 15-year sentences to be served consecutively, one of them for armed robbery on the same day, but he also was sentenced for conspiracy to commit first-degree murder on April 1, 1990.

Wentzel, now 79, was convicted with his wife, Shelia “Dee Dee” Wentzel, of killing their brother-in-law, Fred Brown, in High Point, at the request of his wife’s sister, Patricia Brown, the My Life of Crime blog reported.

Leroy Wentzel, the blog reported, lured Fred Brown, a professor at Guilford County Technical Community College, to a dark place on NC 68 under the premise of car trouble and then eventually shot him three times from behind, once in the back and twice in the head, as Brown tried to run away.

A TV episode

Wentzel originally was not accused of the crime but about two years later told his daughter in an open-at-death letter that he had killed Brown for $30,000 at Patricia Brown’s request. His daughter notified authorities in Pennsylvania, where Wentzel was jailed for failure to pay child support, and the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office eventually arrested him.

The Wentzels, facing first-degree murder charges, pleaded guilty to second-degree and testified against Brown. In early 2022 the case was featured in an episode of “Snapped” on the Oxygen network.

Patricia Brown was sentenced to life plus 30 years for first-degree murder, soliciting first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. She died in 2010.

Shelia Wentzel, now 66, was released in 2011 after serving 11 years of a maximum 50-year sentence on charges of second-degree and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

Little’s case

Marvin J. Little (NC DOC)

Little’s record in the Department of Prisons’ database is confusing. He was convicted on April 11, 1991, in Forsyth County Superior Court and sentenced to 30 years for second-degree murder, but when that sentence was completed on Feb. 17, 2004, he was given a life sentence when the murder charge was merged with another for assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury. It’s unclear why this took place.

There are no details involving an appeal or subsequent charges that are listed in the database, and public searches about his case revealed no details.

His only prior criminal record was probation in July 1988, when he was 18, for a theft charge, and WGHP reached out to the parole commission for clarity, with the legal holiday delaying response.

MAPP program

The commission’s MAPP program, a multistep process under which Little’s parole had been considered, requires an inmate to display a desire to improve educational and training programs and a self-improvement process. There is a 3-year walk-up to release that, the MAPP website states, requires the inmate:

  • To be in medium or minimum custody.
  • Not to be subject to a detainer or pending court action that could result in further confinement.
  • To be infraction-free for a period of 90 days before being recommended.

Little, who is housed at the Johnston Correctional Institution in Smithfield, has 27 infractions on his record, but none since 2015, when he was cited for a sexual act and having too many stamps. His charges including sexually assaulting an inmate and an attempt to commit a Class B offense, which is not specified. Five of the charges are for gambling.

The commission is required to review all offenders eligible for parole on an annual basis. If you have questions, you can call 919-716–3010.