Kentucky's longest-serving inmate dies after 54 years in prison - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kentucky's longest-serving inmate dies after 54 years in prison

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LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) -- William Gaines Smith, Kentucky's longest serving inmate, has died, just months after becoming one of the first inmates in Kentucky to be granted medical parole under a state pilot program.

Smith, 76, had been in prison more than 54 years - believed to rank among the longest in the nation - since 1960, when he was convicted of murdering a store clerk in Lexington. He died Dec. 14 at University Hospital, according to Lisa Lamb, a spokesperson for the state Department of Corrections.

In mid-September, Smith and nine other inmates were granted medical parole under a program that requires the state to release some infirm inmates to private nursing homes where the federal government, through Medicaid, would pay the medical bills.

But Smith and the other inmates granted medical parole were never released because no nursing homes or assisted living facilities agreed to take them, because of possible liability issues.

Smith had been in prison a decade longer than any other current Kentucky inmate, having entered prison at age 22 on August 31, 1960, two years before Marilyn Monroe died and weeks before John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon took part in the first televised presidential debate.

His co-defendant, who was also convicted of murder and sentenced to death for killing a Lexington store clerk during a robbery, was released on parole in 1981.

But Smith, who was deemed insane as early as 1963, remained in prison, in part because his family “has displayed no interest in providing a home,” Smith's case manager noted in 1980, according to records in his file.

In interviews with WDRB, Smith denied being the shooter in the March 18, 1960 robbery of a Lexington liquor store, in which 62-year-old  Olin Alexander was killed.

He also felt he had served enough time behind bars. The average prison sentence for a murder conviction in the United States is seven years.

“I've been in here long enough,” Smith told WDRB in July.

When asked what he missed most about the outside world, he gave a one-word answer.

“Freedom.”

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