James LeRoy Iverson
James LeRoy Iverson, North Dakota’s longest serving inmate, was released from the Bismarck Penitentiary on this date in 2009. At seventy, Iverson had spent more than forty years behind the penitentiary’s walls for killing two Grand Forks women in 1968. His release made national headlines, highlighting the growing number of elderly inmates within America’s prisons.
Iverson was convicted in 1969 for the killing Carol Mayers and Diane Bill, two employees of the Golden Hour Café in Grand Forks; Iverson, a local cab-driver, frequently drove Mayers to work. On the morning of November 27th, 1968, both women failed to show up for the early shift at the café. Unable to reach either of the women, a manager sent someone to check on them.
The bodies of both women were discovered strangled at Carol Mayer’s apartment. The apartment showed signs of a fierce struggle, so detectives first interviewed two men that lived in the apartment below. Information from that interview led them to Iverson, who admitted to knowing and driving the women on occasion. Detectives also noticed scratch marks up and down Iverson’s hands, arms, and neck.
With a history of petty criminal charges, mostly related to burglary and home invasion, Iverson quickly became the number-one suspect. Search warrants on Iverson’s car and home turned up blood-stained clothing and hair matching that of the victims. He was found guilty of both murders, and sentenced to life in prison.
For forty years, Iverson watched the outskirts of Bismarck transform from empty fields into a vibrant shopping center with a busy expressway. While imprisoned, he joined Alcoholics Anonymous and took anger management classes. He went before the parole board and the victims’ families nine times and was denied. Finally, in 2008, parole was granted during his tenth parole hearing. Shortly after his release, Iverson walked into a Wal-Mart and used a cell phone for the first time. He was amazed at the price of gas, which had gone up a bit; when Iverson had entered prison in 1969, gas was around fifteen cents a gallon.
Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job