By Wendy Hayworth
Two families are once again having to relive the worst night of their lives as the man responsible is up for parole with his hearing taking place on February 17, 2017.
14-year-old Sheila Curtright and 2-year-old Jeffery Berger lost their lives less than an hour before the year 1975 began.
Jeffery’s parents were out celebrating the new year while Sheila babysat Jeffery. The parents of both had spoken and felt comfortable with the arrangement.
The Berger’s lived in a duplex and their neighbor, James A. Love returned from the same New Year’s party at around 11 p.m. He later returned to the dance and left again.
Sheila was on the phone with a friend. At about 11 p.m., she ended the conversation because someone was at the door. Shortly thereafter, the friend called again but received no answer. Sheila’s mother called as well. Concerned after numerous failed attempts, the Cutrights headed over to see if their daughter was okay.
Jeffery was found without a pulse.
Sheila was brought back once and transported to what is now called Truman Medical Center East, where she died.
James Love was arrested and charged with two counts of murder in the second degree. He was sentenced to 150 years for each charge, totaling 300 years. He was not supposed to be eligible for parole for 100 years.
The laws have changed. Love was up for parole February 16, 2012 and denied, unable to file again until 2017.
“I worked the case and photographed the scene,” retired Lee’s Summit Police Officer Earl Connors said. “I went to Fulton and talked to Love’s examiners and was told he would kill again with opportunity.
“West Memphis PD considered him a suspect in a 1974 homicide while he was there on leave from his job at Bendix. He has been diagnosed as a sociopath.”
“Each of us working this scene had his or her own vivid memories,” Charles Wycoff said. “Called as a witness by J.D. Williamson, the District Attorney, I remember the determined faces of the Curtright male family members. When asked how they thought the case might turn out; reportedly one softly said; “It doesn’t make any difference”. The meaning was clear.
“I know most of the different faiths of the world ask; What kind of mercy we would like on judgement day? All I can say, is after four decades of the indoctrination of fear and hatred of a prison, how does one relate on the other side of the ‘walls’. Perhaps James Love would find prison easier and maybe safer then outside.”
The parole hearing is scheduled for February 17, 2017. Last time, the community of Lee’s Summit rallied behind the heartbroken families and sent an outpouring of letters to the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole. These letters and plea from the community play a role in keeping Love behind bars.
His prison inmate number is 28450.
Letters can be sent to Missouri Board of Probation and Parole, Attn: Chairman Ellis McSwain, 3400 Knipp Dr., Jefferson City, MO 65109.