(WJHL) — James Hamm Jr. served seven and a half years in prison after driving drunk in 2014 and hitting local business owner and Tennessee Rep. Mike Locke, killing him. Locke had been placing campaign signs along Fort Henry Drive when he was hit.

On Thursday, March 24, Hamm was released from the Northwest Correctional Complex in Tiptonville, Tennessee. A Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) commissioner had recommended Hamm’s early release in February on a number of conditions, including random drug screenings and monitoring.

Locke’s widow, Debbie Locke, petitioned for years to keep Hamm behind bars. In a February 2022 interview with News Channel 11, she said the fight to keep Hamm in prison was the family’s way of pushing for justice.

“I will fight to the very end,” Locke said. “It is not about forgiveness. It’s about honoring Mike and the justice that he deserves.”

Before his release, the Board of Parole had denied the motion three times — his last parole denial occurred just last August. Family and friends of deceased Rep. Locke attended that hearing, claiming Hamm to be a threat to the community.

At Hamm’s August 2021 hearing, however, he said that the events from that day will haunt him whether he is free or incarcerated.

“I regret every day my actions because I know my punishment will last forever simply because I must carry it forever,” Hamm said during the August 2021 parole hearing.

Family members said the choice Hamm made that night forever changed their lives as well, upholding he should serve the entirety of his 14-year sentence.

“Mr. Hamm chose to drink and drive and kill Mike, and he should serve the consequences,” said Rep. Locke’s brother, David Locke. “No matter how good a guy thinks he is after the fact, he is still guilty.”