No parole home means delay in murderer's prison release


Neighbors are worried after learning a convicted killer and sex offender will be headed back to town, long before he was supposed to get out of prison.

Robert Evan Lee's conviction dates back to 1987 in Bloomington. But back then, Indiana didn't have a life without parole sentence. So he's being released Saturday, and that has residents like Victoria Branson, scared.

"It is scary. For your kids, your wives, your daughters," Branson said.

She's one of many who are fearful because a convicted murderer is set to move back to Bloomington Saturday - the very city where he killed and dismembered an IU grad student 26 years ago.

The victim's body parts were found in trash bags. Police discovered a notebook with handwritten plans for a woman's killing in Robert Lee's home.

Lee served only 25 years of a 60 year sentence for the murder of 31-year-old Ellen Marks. After credit for good behavior, and for earning several college and vocational degrees in prison, he's being released early.

The Indiana Department of Correction sends parolees to their last county of residence. For Lee, that's Bloomington in Monroe County.

"Why put that kind of person into the mix of these college kids, young women? I don't think you need to put somebody like that right in the middle of a college town. Put him somewhere else," Branson said.

Exactly where to put him is still unknown. The DOC already had to delay Lee's release by a couple of days because so far, no one will take him.

Backstreet Missions, Inc., which provides transitional housing and runs a soup kitchen, has accepted murder parolees in the past. But they said not this time - not this man.

"We felt that the safety of those coming to us might be compromised as well as Mr. Lee's safety. It was the extreme violence of the offense and the safety issue here with everyone that's coming here for services," said Backstreet Missions director Linda Kelley. "We also live within a thousand feet of a technical high school."

Since Lee is also a sex offender, from an attempted rape conviction in 1973 in New York, they can't take him.

And they weren't the only shelter to reject housing Lee. A Bloomington church that also operates a shelter also said no. Again, it was because of safety concerns and the brutal nature of Lee's crime.

The DOC, as of Thursday evening, was still looking for a place to house him during his parole.

Victoria Branson says she feels for people who've served their time and are trying to improve their lives. But she says the violence of this case is different.

"You never know. They're not always rehabilitated."

That's the fear, especially in a place where young women are everywhere.

"Because you can grab any kid walking down the street at any time in Bloomington. You know that," Branson said.

When Lee is released from prison Saturday, he will be outfitted with a GPS ankle bracelet so his movements can be tracked. He'll also be watched closely by not only his parole agent, but also Bloomington police.

Lee's supervised parole in Bloomington lasts for one year.