One of two men responsible for the abduction of 9-year-old Nancy Shoemaker in 1990 is up for parole for the fourth time — and people can tell the Kansas Department of Correction in person this week how they feel about the possibility of his release.
The Prisoner Review Board will be at the Derby Police and Courts building at 229 N. Baltimore in Derby from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday taking comments on the parole bids of 17 Kansas prison inmates. Among them is Donald Wacker, 54, who was convicted of helping Doil Lane kidnap Nancy a block and half from her south Wichita home on July 30, 1990.
After the abduction, the men drove Nancy to a Sumner County field where Lane raped her and strangled her with a belt. Her body was found more than six months later.
“Our goal is to keep him (Wacker) in prison,” Nancy’s father, Bo Shoemaker, said Tuesday. “And we’re going to ask the parole board that he not be eligible for parole anymore.”
Shoemaker’s family lives in Florida but traveled to Wichita for the hearing.
They anticipate friends and family, as well as law enforcement officers and attorneys, to be in Derby to show their support.
“We can’t just sit back and do nothing,” Shoemaker said. “If they have one (hearing), we’re going to be here and do everything we can to prevent his release.”
Julie Shoemaker, Nancy’s stepmother, added: “We do this to protect children and families from going through this devastating kind of event.”
The Prisoner Review Board also will be at the Municipal Courthouse, 214 S.E. Eighth in Topeka, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Friday taking statements from the public.
Written comments can be sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by postal mail to: Kansas Department of Corrections Prisoner Review Board, 714 S.W. Jackson, Ste. 300, Topeka KS 66603.
Wacker, who is serving a life sentence, was denied parole in 1999, 2004 and 2010, according to The Eagle’s news archives. Lane is serving time in a Texas prison for murdering a girl in 1980 and hasn’t begun serving the 66-year sentence he received for Nancy’s rape and murder.
If Wacker’s parole is approved, he could be released from prison as early as December, according to the KDOC’s website.
That thought worries Bob Burns, a retired Sedgwick County sheriff’s lieutenant who supervised the investigation into Nancy’s disappearance when he was a sergeant in the local Exploited and Missing Child Unit.
He’s helped the Shoemaker family collect signatures opposing Wacker’s release and plans to go to Derby on Wednesday.
As of Tuesday afternoon, about 7,200 people had signed the petitions, Bo Shoemaker said. He anticipated more would be turned in Wednesday morning at the Prisoner Review Board hearing.
“We’re doing all we can to keep this person in jail,” Burns said last week from his Wichita home. “What I’m afraid of is if he gets out, we’re going to have other children hurt. It’s just difficult to think about.”
Nancy was abducted as she walked home from the Phillips 66 near Pawnee at Seneca. Her stepmother had sent her to the gas station to buy a bottle of 7-Up to soothe her infant brother’s upset stomach after he became ill.
Lane and Wacker were driving in the area when they saw her, according to The Eagle’s news archives.
Burns said when he and his team were notified about Nancy’ disappearance, they feared the worst.
He said he immediately went to the intersection and talked to neighbors to try to find her.
“Our entire team were down there and started interviewing people in the area so that we could try to figure out where she went, how she went and who” took her, he said.
They passed out fliers with Nancy’s photo and information on it and enlisted hundreds of volunteers to help.
But days of searches with few or no fruitful leads turned into weeks and months. Her 10th birthday, in December 1990, passed with no news for her family.
“It is frustrating for a long period of time if we don’t know where she is or who did it,” Burns said. “It took a long time” to break open the case, he said.
Nancy’s remains were discovered in February 1991 by a jogger searching for aluminum cans near Belle Plaine, about 25 miles south of Nancy’s home, according to the Eagle’s news archives.
Lane and Wacker were arrested nearly a year after her disappearance. Tips from sources and an FBI profile of the killer helped link the men to the case, The Eagle previously reported.
“I was angry when we found out that she was dead,” Burns said. “You can’t get over something like that. To this day, it’s in my mind all of the time.”
Every time Wacker is eligible for parole, “it gets harder and harder ... to keep him in,” Burns said. “I’m going to try to go down to Derby to see what I can do. I’ll probably have tears in my eyes. It’ll be tough.”
Family, retired officer work to keep Nancy Shoemaker’s abductor in prison