It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
David Gatlin knows he killed his estranged wife in 1993.
But Gatlin and three other convicted killers also know outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour — they worked as trusties at the Governor’s Mansion in Jackson — and they know they are now free men. They left state custody this past weekend.
Barbour, governor since 2004, granted pardons to at least four convicted killers during his last days in office, the Associated Press reports.
Barbour leaves office today. He’s not returning reporter’s phone calls.
The pardons have outraged family members of the victims.
Gatlin, 40, was sentenced to life in prison for killing Tammy Ellis Gatlin and shooting her friend Randy Walker.
Walker’s mother, Glenda Walker, told the AP Monday that Gatlin shot his estranged wife while she was holding their young baby, then shot her son in the head.
“He left that little baby on his dead mother’s body,” Glenda Walker said. “It was a horrendous murder.”
Randy Walker, who lives in Rankin County, said he voted for Barbour for governor in 2003 and 2007. Before Barbour’s pardon of Gatlin, Walker said he would’ve supported Barbour for president, if Barbour had run.
“I’m totally disgusted,” Walker said Monday. “I think Gov. Barbour at heart is a great man. I think he’s done a lot of good for the state of Mississippi, but I think he’s made a huge error here…. One man can’t put you in jail. I don’t think it’s right for one man to remove you from jail.”
The Mississippi Parole Board turned down Gatlin on Dec. 27, according to a letter dated Jan. 4 and obtained by AP. The letter did not explain why the Parole Board rejected Gatlin’s parole request. It said he was due for another parole hearing in October.
While Barbour’s office hasn’t responded to messages about the pardons, he told the AP in 2008 that releasing the trusties who live and work at the mansion is a tradition in Mississippi that goes back decades.
Pardons for convicted killers are not new. The AP reports Barbour created a similar stir by releasing convicted killer Michael Graham in 2008. Graham shot his wife in the head while she was sitting at a red light.
Barbour’s three predecessors, dating back to 1988, gave some type of early release or pardon to a total of 12 Governor’s Mansion trusties. All but two of them had been convicted of murder. One was serving time for forgery and another for armed robbery and aggravated assault.