Opry Star ‘Stringbean’ Akeman’s Killer Given Parole
One of the men convicted for the 1973 murder of Grand Ole Opry star David "Stringbean" Akeman and his wife has been granted parole.
Sixty-four-year-old John A. Brown appeared before the Tennessee Board of Parole on Wednesday morning (Oct. 15) to ask for parole for the sixth time. Despite a campaign from Opry stars Bill Anderson, Jan Howard, Jean Shepard and Mac Wiseman for him to remain incarcerated, four of the seven board members voted for him to go free.
Brown and his cousin, Doug Marvin Brown, were convicted of ambushing Stringbean and his wife Estelle when they returned home from a night at the Opry on Nov. 10, 1973. Stringbean was known to carry large amounts of cash, and the men intended to rob him. They were waiting inside the couple's home, and when Stringbean walked in, John Brown shot him. Authorities say he then pursued Estelle into the front yard, where he shot her in the back of the head as she begged for mercy on her knees.
Both men were given two life sentences. Doug Brown died in prison in 2003. John Brown has pleaded for forgiveness and logged a record of good behavior in the decades since the murders, and he underwent a psychological evaluation after a hearing in April. The parole board took the results of that evaluation into consideration before voting to free him Wednesday.
Several of Stringbean's longtime friends and fellow Opry stars objected to the decision. Speaking to Nashville's Tennessean newspaper, Wiseman calls it a "great miscarriage of justice ... It makes me question the legal system."
"I fully believe that the good Lord forgives us for our mistakes," Wiseman adds, but the parole board members "don't have the authority, spiritually or otherwise, to forgive that man, I don't think."
Jean Shepard echoes that sentiment. "Why should they turn him loose? He cold-bloodedly killed two friends of ours," she tells the Tennessean. "I'm sure the Lord will forgive him. I don't think any of us will."