Family fights parole with petition

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DANVILLE — A man who was imprisoned for murder is up for parole next month. But the victim’s sister wants to make sure he stays behind bars.

15-year-old David Grinestaff was shot to death more than 40 years ago in Danville. The man convicted of the crime first went up for parole in 1983. Every time he’s been up for it, Grinestaff’s family asks people to sign a petition to keep him locked up. This is the 21st time they’ve put out a petition.

James Dumas was convicted in 1976. He’s been in Shawnee Correctional Center downstate serving a 150 year sentence. Grinestaff’s family says it’s something they’ll never give up on.

Jennifer Lee says Dumas took away something she never had.

“He took away the life of a 15-year-old. He took away my mother’s oldest son, and my oldest brother. David did not get to live out a life that was full of potential,” says Lee.

David Grinestaff was working a summer job at a Shell Gas Station in Danville. Police say Dumas shot and killed the 15-year-old in August of 1975.

“James just doesn’t deserve to get to live out the rest of his life as a free man,” Lee says.

For as long as Lee can remember, her family has been working to keep Dumas locked up. Her parents started petitioning for it in 1983 when Lee was three years old. Every time he’s up for parole, her mom visits the prisoner review board, signatures in hand.

“My mom goes every time to speak and she brings the petitions. And it just shows support. It shows that the members of this community do not want him released,” says Lee.

For the last several years, you don’t have to be in Danville to sign it. Lee decided to put the petition online.

“We’ve had signatures from people in Australia and the U.K. Comments that have been left behind say that they remember David or they lived in Danville at the time and they remember when it happened,” says Lee.

One signer remembers as well as anybody. Dennis Haley of Pensacola, Florida says he was a young detective in Danville at the time and helped with the investigation and arrest. He says Dumas showed no remorse and denied that he shot Grinestaff. Haley says he deserves every year he got.

Lee says while she never knew her older brother, keeping Dumas behind bars is something she will never let go.

“He deserves to serve his full sentence. As I’ve gotten older, and especially after I’ve passed the point that he died, it really did start hitting home more that there’s this hole in our family where he should be.”

So far, the petition going around now has more than 870 signatures. Lee says previous ones have only had about 100 or 200.

Here’s a timeline of the case: David Grinestaff was shot on August 21, 1975 and died the next day. Dumas was arrested a week later. Witnesses say he had an accomplice who was never caught. In early 1976, he was sentenced to 150 years in prison.

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