Gary Krist: The Einstein of Crime
Krist began tutoring fellow inmates, teaching them to read and write. He took college classes, trained as an EMT and worked in the prison hospital. He also cultivated a relationship with James T. (Tommy) Morris, the influential chairman of the Georgia Parole Board.
Under the lenient parole protocols of that era, even as a lifer, Krist became eligible to apply for parole after just seven years in prison.
He lined up a number of doctors and professors who lobbied for his release, led by his prison pen pal girlfriend, Joan Jones.
The decision to free or detain Krist was left to the parole board, and Morris had tremendous influence on his colleagues.
Morris advocated for Krist's release as early as 1976. The convict promised to return to Pelican, Alaska, to work in the family shrimp business.
A hitch arose when Alaskan officials said they didn't want him back.
But by 1979, after lobbying by Krist's family and Tommy Morris, Alaska acquiesced. Barbara Mackle, by then a wife and mother, did not oppose the release. So the Georgia Parole Board quietly voted to free the infamous con.
Prosecutor Bell was incensed, predicting that Krist's "devious mind" would inevitably lead him back to crime.Krist's trial judge, H.O. Hubert said Morris had been conned.
"I just don't think he will ever change," said the judge.
But Morris continued to tout Krist's rehabilitation, despite a public outcry.
"There is nothing in our files to indicate Gary Steven Krist is violent or dangerous," he told the New York Times. "If he does commit a crime, it won't be a crime of violence."
Remarkably, Morris claimed the kidnapping was a negligible crime, because no one was killed.
"The fact is the victim did live and is totally recovered," Morris said. Barbara Mackle "suffers no lasting trauma from the ordeal ... Therefore the net result is little harm was done."
"He isn't the same person at all," Krist's mother, Bobbie, told the Times. "It just took him a long time to grow up. I think he has served his time and paid his debt to society."
He walked out of prison on May 14, 1979, still just 33 years old. He told reporters that he might just become a missionary.
The wife he had abandoned divorced him while he was in prison. But waiting at the prison gates was Joan Jones, his prison pen pal.
They were married a few months later.
Krist's mother predicted it would be a long time before America heard from her son again. This was true.