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UPDATE: Ruthann Veal sentenced to life with possibility of parole

UPDATE: Ruthann Veal sentenced to life with possibility of parole

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WATERLOO | A former Mason City resident is eligible for parole after serving time for killing a retired librarian in Waterloo.

In the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that found life sentences without parole for juveniles are cruel and unusual punishment, District Court Judge Brad Harris sentenced Ruthann Veal -- who was a 14-year-old runaway when she killed Catherine Haynes, 66, and stole her credit cards in 1993 -- to life with the possibility of parole Monday.

Now it’s Haynes’s family who is facing a life sentence of fighting that parole.

“Now we have to go through this for who knows how long,” said Haynes' daughter, Laura Haynes Shimek.

Shimek said he doesn’t hate Veal, but she also doesn’t forgive her for what she did. Shimek will challenge her parole requests.

“The only thing you need to know about me, and the only thing you are going to hear about, is the fact I will do everything in my power to make sure you spend the rest of your life in prison for the murder of my mother,” Shimek said.

Veal, who has served almost 20 years in prison, is now housed at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women at Mitchellville.

She returned to the Black Hawk County Courthouse on Monday in a green jail uniform, smiled and waved to friends and family with cuffed wrists.

She broke into tears when she faced Shimek and Haynes’s son-in-law and grandchildren to speak.

“I would like to say to the victim’s family I am sorry for any pain I have caused upon your family. I’d like to say to my family I am sorry. … I am sorry,” Veal said.

Black Hawk County Attorney Thomas Ferguson said that while the law states Veal should be eligible for parole, that doesn’t mean he supports parole for her.

The Iowa Board of Parole reviews eligible cases annually, although that doesn’t guarantee Veal will receive a parole hearing, Ferguson said.

Authorities said Veal hid in Haynes’s home after running away. She then attacked Haynes, stabbing her 23 times.

“She was kind to you and tried to be helpful, and you repaid her kindness by beating her and stabbing her to death with what happened to be her favorite kitchen knife,” Shimek told Veal during Monday’s hearing.

Although her voice was unwavering, Shimek admitted she was scared by seeing Veal in person and wanted to flee.

Shimek said what followed the slaying was two decades of pain as she and her family tried to come to terms with the crime. Each year on the anniversary of the slaying, she wrote a single verse in a continuing poem.

“After 10 years, 10 verses, I stopped. The poem was done, and it felt like it was time to lay it rest. But of course that hasn’t happened,” she said.

Shimek said she contacted Veal a number of years ago through a corrections program that connects prisoners with their victims. The two wrote letters, and the daughter said Veal made "baby steps” toward a face-to-face meeting.

"She didn’t express remorse. She didn’t express guilt,” Shimek said. The communication abruptly stopped around 2006 when Veal apparently saw she had a chance at an appeal, said Shimek. 

“Part of the victim-offender process is that the offender has admit what they have done, and she was on the cusp of that, and then she got lawyers and a new tactic, and everything ceased,” she said.

Without parole, the family had a sense of finality. Now they will have parole hearings that will continually dig up the painful past.

“I don’t believe she should be out on the streets. If she’s been a model prisoner since she’s been at Mitchellville, that’s great, that’s fine. She can stay there and be a mentor to everybody else that comes up behind her,”  Shimek said.

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