In June of 1978 after a day at Lewisville Lake, 17-year-old Jeana Walker was going to attend a Lewisville High School graduation party. The car she was borrowing broke down, and Jeana Walker never reached the party. Instead her body was found by cattle workers in the wooded area next to FM 407 hours later. Lewisville was changed forever.
Now Jeana Walker’s loved ones are doing what they can to keep the man convicted of her rape and murder in prison. Her youngest sister, Jackie, is collecting letters from the community that ask the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to deny John William McCrory (TDCJ# 00627165) parole when he is considered for it in 2017.
Jackie Walker started Justice for Jeana Walker on Facebook and change.org. She has more than 650 signatures on the petition and more than 50 letters to give the board currently. She will be driving to Palestine to speak to the board directly instead of testifying over the phone.
McCrory, 66, presently resides at the Michael Unit in Tennessee Colony for a different crime he was convicted of in 1988. When he was originally convicted for raping and killing Jeana Walker in 1979, he was charged with capital murder and given the death penalty. Because he was not given a Miranda warning before he made the confession that led to his arrest, the case was considered a mistrial.
Instead of pursuing a brand new trial, especially without his confession, the parties settled on a plea bargain of 30 years prison time.
“Because his statement wasn’t admissible,” said Jerry Cobb, district attorney and lead prosecutor in the case, “we weren’t sure a jury would convict him.”
Less than 10 years into McCrory’s sentence, he was let out on parole. He returned home to live with his parents, where his 16-year-old daughter lived at the time. In April of 1989, a jury found McCrory guilty of having intercourse with his teenage daughter and sentenced him to life in prison for incest.
Jackie Walker was scared into action in 2015 when she started wondering about what had become of McCrory to find his case was coming up for parole review, something that had been happening since 1995.
“For all that time, I never realized he was up for parole,” Jackie Walker, 52, said. “Back then I thought life sentence meant life.”
Jackie Walker said her sister’s story is unfortunately a part of Lewisville’s history.
“This town was literally changed forever on that night,” Jackie Walker said. “In every one of these letters, people mention that’s when our town lost its innocence.”
Thereafter every evening until her mother, Lee Walker, died, Jackie Walker called her mom to tell her where she was.
“I remember when I was married, on my honeymoon, 10 o’clock at night wherever we were, I’m calling home,” Jackie Walker said.
Kobey Millsap, Jeana’s boyfriend of more than a year at the time, agrees that the night she was killed was a definitive moment in Lewisville’s narrative. It was no longer a place you could keep your doors unlocked or your windows open. He recalled his household having no idea where the keys to the house were.
“That was the kind of town it was,” Millsap, 55, said. “Not saying it was crime-free but it was, it was an innocent town.”
Jeana Walker had borrowed Millsap’s car to go home and change before meeting up with him to go to the party. He waited with growing frustration because he thought she was blowing him off. He went to her home, he went to her older sister’s home and he went to the party to try and find her.
Somebody had joked they saw the car broken down on 407. He was driven to the car, which was abandoned. As he tried to check out what was wrong with the vehicle, officers came out of the wooded area and asked him and the driver to step away.
The two were put in the police car, questioned and told what happened to Jeana. Millsap never drove the car again.
Millsap said nearly 40 years later he calls his wife, Tinker, 10 times a day. His daughters Devinee Bass, 35, and Bree Belcher, 31, have to text them when they get home from somewhere, and the parents will often do the reverse.
Checking in not only applies to his family, but anybody who he expects to be somewhere.
“It’s not only from a standpoint of care or compassion, it’s from a standpoint that drives me crazy because of what happened,” Millsap said. “Do you wait again? I waited once. I can’t wait again.”
Cobb, who has been an attorney since 1968, said the death penalty case was one of the first he tried as district attorney.
“They hadn’t tried to get the death penalty in Denton County for a considerable amount of time before this,” he said.
Cobb said McCrory should never be on parole.
“He raped and murdered a girl. And when he gets out of prison, he rapes his own daughter,” Cobb said. “He can’t live in society in my opinion.”
Parole in Texas
In fiscal year 2015, 82,340 people were considered for parole in Texas, of which 28,925 were approved. In the same year, 5,501 people had their parole revoked and had to return to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said Raymond M. Estrada, director of public information for the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
The first parole law was enacted by the Texas Legislature in 1905 and gave power to the Board of Prison Commissioners and the Board of Pardons Advisors, with Governor approval, to make rules and regulations under which certain meritorious prisoners might be paroled, Estrada said.
Cobb said parole is a tool prisons can use to control inmates and keep them from causing problems.
“[Offenders have] an opportunity at some point in time to get out if they do what they’re supposed to do,” Cobb said. “Like capital murder cases now, you’re sentenced to life without parole, which means you’re never going to get out. That does cause discipline problems because what do you got to lose?”
Without parole, correctional facilities would face overcrowding, Cobb said. It would be too expensive to care for them.
Because of the secret nature of the parole world, Jackie Walker said, she has no idea if McCrory has family or pen pals petitioning for his release.
After Jeana’s death, Lee Walker left her role as a housewife and became the first woman and first Republican elected to a courthouse office in Texas. She ran with the slogan, “She’s the man for the job” and became Denton County commissioner.
The Lee Walker Government Center at 190 N. Valley Parkway was named after her. She died in 1992 after battling with breast cancer. Denton’s courthouse Christmas tree was planted in her memory.
Millsap said he hopes readers understand their actions have a ripple effect, both a good ripple and a bad one. McCrory had a bad effect on the community and the families involved, he said. But there was also the good that followed.
“You look at Mrs. Walker who went into politics to try to make a difference in other people’s lives,” he said. “You look at Jackie picking up the torch.”
In Jackie Walker’s letter to the board, she asks for two things: the denial of McCrory’s parole and a five-year set off date. Inmates are reviewed for parole on an annual basis once they are eligible. The previous time Jackie Walker spoke to the board, they granted her a two-year set-off, giving her a year to put the situation out of her mind. Jackie Walker will be opposing his parole eligibility until he serves his life sentence.
Those wishing to help may send letters to Justice for Jeana Walker, 1079 West Round Grove Road #300–534, Lewisville, TX 75067. Emails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.