South Kona killer seeks parole again

KAILUA-KONA — The Hawaii Paroling Authority will take up this month another request for parole by a South Kona man convicted of killing his sister-in-law more than a decade ago.

James Abernethy will appear via video conference before the three-member parole board on Jan. 29 to make his case for release. It will be his fifth time since becoming eligible for parole in 2015.

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During the hearing, the board will consider Abernethy’s parole plan as well as a prescriptive plan update from the facility where he is incarcerated. If he meets requirements, and the board is “satisfied, they may grant parole based on the approved/verified plan,” said Toni Schwartz, spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Safety, under which the paroling authority falls.

“The Board must weigh and balance program completion, institutional conduct, risk to the public, as well as the individual’s mindset,” she added.

Previous attempts in June 2015, May 2016, December 2016 and December 2017 resulted in the board denying Abernethy parole, according to Schwartz. His last two denials were attributed to non-completion of all recommended programs.

Abernethy has been incarcerated since his arrest the day of the killing on Aug. 12, 2008. He is serving 20 years imprisonment for fatally stabbing 57-year-old Victoria Vickers, who was his sister-in-law, and injuring his wife, Linda Vickers, at their Kona Paradise home.

Linda Vickers, reached Wednesday, declined comment for this story, but did say she has submitted a letter to the Hawaii Paroling Authority for the upcoming hearing. She added she has done so every time Abernethy has come up for parole.

If Abernethy is denied parole on Jan. 29, Schwartz said, “the parole board would be required to see him within the next 12 months for parole consideration, but (that) could be sooner depending on the issues at hand.”

Abernethy is currently housed at the Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona. His scheduled date of release is Aug. 6, 2028.

Abernethy was sentenced in June 2011 by then-3rd Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Strance to concurrent sentences of up to 20 years for manslaughter and five years for assault for the 2008 incident. He had faced a second-degree murder charge, however, in a plea deal meted with prosecutors, Abernethy pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter. In exchange, he was allowed to begin seeking parole after serving five years.

Abernethy and his wife, Linda Vickers, had been separated but not were not divorced when Abernethy fatally stabbed his sister-in-law, Victoria Vickers. Abernethy and Victoria Vickers had been arguing when Abernethy got a knife and stabbed the woman in the neck. He also stabbed Linda Vickers in the hand.

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During a preliminary hearing held about a week after the killing, Linda Vickers recounted to the court the incident. She said Abernethy threw Victoria Vickers up against a wall and pinned her head with his left arm and threatened to kill her.

“The knife was at her throat. I didn’t know what to do,” she said, then gestured a stabbing motion. “Then he did like that. Just once.”