Jon Buice, the last man remaining in prison for the murder of gay Houston banker Paul Broussard, was freed on parole Wednesday.
Buice left the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville after serving 23 years of a 45-year sentence, the Houston Chronicle reports. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles agreed to his parole in November, on Buice's fourth attempt to be freed, over the objections of Broussard's mother and victims' rights advocate Andy Kahan.
Broussard was leaving a nightclub in Houston's heavily gay Montrose neighborhood July 4, 1991, when 10 young men attacked him. They pursued him into a dead-end alley, where Buice fatally stabbed him.
Buice, who was 17 at the time of the attack, received the 45-year sentence in a plea bargain. It was the longest sentence imposed on any of the attackers, who became known as the "Woodlands 10" for the community they lived in. Five of them received probation, the Chronicle notes.
Buice was greeted by his father, James Buice, as he left prison Wednesday, the Chronicle reports. The younger Buice said only "Let's go, let's go," while his father told the paper, "He's pretty restricted right now. He's in close quarters. He sees his parole officer on Monday."
"I'm happy to have him home," James Buice added. "He's our prodigal son. He's got a place he's staying -- I built a house for him. He's got a job in computers waiting for him. ... Jon never was a bad boy, not a bad teen. He made a bad mistake when he was 17, but he's 41 years old today. He's going to be a good man."
Broussard's mother, Nancy Rodriguez, had called for Jon Buice to serve at least 27 years, "one year for every year of her son's life," the Chronicle reports. In 2011 the parole board reversed a decision to free Buice because of Rodriguez's objections.
Several activists told the Chronicle Wednesday that Buice should still be in prison. Noel Freeman, former president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, said Buice's release is a "travesty of justice," adding, "If you look at the number of people who have been convicted of murder in Texas, the number who are released after serving a similar portion of their sentence is pretty low."
Kahan said, "The decision to release a cold-blooded murderer ... is sending chills down everyone's spine wondering if their case will be the next one to be paroled."
But in November, the statewide LGBT rights group Equality Texas said it would respect the parole board's decision and that Buice would now have "an opportunity to demonstrate that he truly is a changed man." And Houston gay activist Ray Hill said at the time that he believes Buice is indeed rehabilitated and that he no longer thinks the attack was hate-motivated, although many continue to characterize it that way.
Buice's completion of academic studies while he was in prison was one factor that led the parole board to release him, the Chronicle reports. Board spokesman Raymond Estrada said Buice will receive "super-intensive supervision." He will have to wear a GPS monitoring device, find employment, and remain in Texas, though out of Harris County, which includes Houston. He also will be required to avoid contact with the others tried for the crime and with the two companions who were with Broussard that night.