By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
(this story originally appeared on Cowboy State Daily)
A woman who has spent more than half her life in prison for her role in the kidnapping of an elderly couple near Gillette will be eligible for parole in 2025 after having her sentence commuted by Gov. Mark Gordon.
Darla Rouse, 45, has spent 25 years in prison on a sentence of 53 years to life handed down in her conviction on four charges filed in connection with the 1996 kidnapping.
Gov. Mark Gordon in December commuted Rouse’s sentence, shaving at least 13 years off of her term and making her eligible for parole in April 2025, according to Paul Martin, deputy administrator for the Wyoming Department of Corrections.
If paroled, Martin said Rouse will remain on parole for life.
Rouse, then 19, and her boyfriend James “Jay” Boule, fled Texas in 1996 after Boule broke out of jail.
The couple was on the lam for a few days before they ran out of money. At a rest stop just outside of Gillette, the couple kidnapped 64-year-old Jerry and 69-year-old Rose Rockne, taking their pickup truck and fifth-wheel camper and tying the couple to chairs in the back of the fifth-wheel.
After a brief stop in Buffalo, Rose Rockne was able to free her hands and hurl herself out of the camper into the street.
Law enforcement officers pursued the fleeing couple and they were eventually arrested on Interstate 90.
Rouse was tried in Campbell County Sixth Judicial Court before Judge Dan Price II on Dec. 16, 1996 and was sentenced to four terms varying in length from five to 30 years for a total of 53 years to life.
Rouse’s appeal to the Wyoming Supreme Court in 1998 to have her sentence reduced was rejected. Twice during his tenure, former Gov. Matt Mead. a former federal prosecutor, also refused to sign a request for commutation for Rouse, which is the only way that a sentence can be reduced in Wyoming.
Later, Price would regret the length of the sentence and start intervening on Rouse’s behalf. Beginning in 2007, he wrote multiple letters to the Wyoming Board of Parole in Rouse’s defense.
Over the years, the parole board has voted several times that Rouse be released from prison due to her lack of infractions while at inmate at the Wyoming Women’s Center in Lusk, as well as her repeated letters of remorse to both the family and parole board.
During her 24-plus years in prison, Rouse has volunteered to conduct prison tours, worked with K-9 officers, achieved several personal fitness and exercise degrees, lead fitness classes for other inmates and attended college online. She’s had one infraction during her time in prison for using the kitchen without permission.
Gordon made the final decision on the commutation last Tuesday, issuing one for Rouse and one other person. They were among six commutations presented for the governor’s consideration and the first he has granted.
The governor’s communication Director Michael Pearlman told Cowboy State Daily that Rouse’s commutation was approved based on a variety of factors including the fact the Rockne family no longer opposes her release, Rouse’s remorse for her crime, her disciplinary record while incarcerated and her rehabilitative programming and other work while incarcerated.
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