Woman confronts husband's killer, first time in decades

Posted at: 03/07/2013 4:44 PM
Updated at: 03/07/2013 6:34 PM
By: Eddie Garcia, KOB Eyewitness News 4

In 1983 Albuquerque Police Department Officer Jerry Cline was shot and killed at a hotel on Central near San Mateo.

Joel Lee Compton was sentenced to death for the murder.    

That sentence was commuted by former Governor Toney Anaya and that means he's eligible for parole, and Compton's parole hearing occurred Wednesday.

The hearing was closed to the media, but KOB Eyewitness News 4 is hearing about what happened from Jerry Cline's widow.

Yolanda Cline said she and her three children have been rebuilding their lives for the past 30 years.

She heard Wednesday from the man who killed her husband – the first time in decades.

"He had an opportunity, a clean slate to start over," said Cline.

But what came out of Joel Compton’s mouth was like slap in the face, Cline said.

"He expressed absolutely no sorrow, no remorse about anything except causing the fight with the man next door in the motel which led to the calling of the police," said Cline.

KOB 4 footage from 1983 shows Compton in cuffs at the scene of the crime.

Police linked him to a rifle that was used to shoot officer Cline through the heart.

"He contends that he did not kill Jerry," said Cline.

Cline says Compton blamed everyone, but himself. She said toward the end of the hearing, Compton became upset.

"He just wanted to leave and he said that several times - ‘I just want to leave, I'm not going to get a fair hearing - you're not going to let me out,’" Cline said.

Cline says all she and her family wanted to hear was some apology - any apology.

"Even if he had said I didn't kill your husband but I'm sorry he's dead - that wasn't even said. No I'm sorry that your children didn't have a dad, but I didn't kill him – it wasn't there and that's sad," said Cline.

Compton wasn't the only one who spoke at the hearing Wednesday - the family had their turn.

Strangely, Compton commented on who he wanted to hear from.

"He only wanted to hear from one person and that was me and he said, ‘I'm sure she has something to say,’ and I thought ‘oh yeah I do,’" said Cline.

A widow hears from her husband’s killer

"It was a cold dark clear night in February 1983 when a drifting felon from Texas stepped out of the shadows and in less than 5 feet with a rifle, shot my husband once through the heart," said Cline.

These were the opening words from Cline to the man who killed her husband.

"Officer Jerry Cline was dead,” she said. “Myself and my children became police survivors."

Cline says the family wanted to make sure Compton knew what he did to them.

"What all he missed when his daughters married and his grandchildren were born," said Cline.

But in return, Cline said Compton showed no remorse and denied killing her husband.

"In my opinion, he's not any different than the man they put in jail 30 years ago," said Cline.

Even so, Cline says she's chosen faith over hatred.

"There's times and days I could dismember him with a butter knife and never blink an eye but the real me works on being forgiving and compassionate and understanding," said Cline.

Cline says she'll never understand why her husband didn't get to come home from work that cold February night or why she had to raise their three children alone.

Despite that, she says she's resolved to live a good life, and try to make a difference - just what her husband would have wanted.

"I'm going to go home and I'm going to have a good life,” Cline said. I'm going to enjoy my grandchildren and my nephews and my friends.”

Cline says former Gov. Anaya’s commutation of Compton's death sentence was insulting.

She says she will continue to make sure Compton never makes it out on parole.

A decision on Compton’s parole  should come in the next week.