KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — It is an ongoing call for justice from a Kingsport family. Former Tennessee state representative and local business owner Mike Locke was killed in 2014 when James Hamm Jr. got behind the wheel of his car drunk.
Mike would lose his life to the mistake. His family would lose their rock. After serving half of his 14-year sentence on a conviction of vehicular homicide by intoxication, Hamm is asking once again for his release from prison before the state parole board.
“This is not forgotten. It is still very much on the community’s mind,” said Mike’s widow, Debbie Locke.
Debbie is gathering signatures of support, each one more than just a name. She drafted a petition calling for the parole board to deny parole for Hamm. She estimates around one thousand local people have signed. Petitions are out at many businesses across Kingsport, including the Hot Dog Hut, which Mike Locke founded.
“I will fight to the very end. It is not about forgiveness. It’s about honoring Mike and the justice that he deserves,” Debbie Locke said.
In August, Hamm appeared virtually for his latest hearing before the parole board. The board decided not to grant him parole at that time but decided they would revisit the case six months later. The parole board asked that Hamm complete multiple drug screenings and be professionally re-evaluated for risk to re-offend.
The upcoming hearing on Feb. 15 will mark the fourth time Hamm is up for parole.
Debbie Locke says a lot of people who are family members of victims cannot take the emotional toll of fighting for justice.
“But I’ve lost everything. So why not?” asked Debbie.
Founder of HOPE for Victims Joan Berry says the never-ending process of parole hearings gives families of victims no peace.
“It’s a constant battle and you think about it every single day,” Berry said. She has attended previous hearings in support of the Locke family and denial of parole for Hamm.
HOPE for Victims advocates on a state level for truth in sentencing, which requires offenders to serve a substantial portion of their prison sentence.
“We just want what’s fair. We want justice. We want it to be fair,” said Berry.
Debbie says for her own family and for others going through the same thing, she will not be silent.
“I really feel like it’s what the state wants is for me to just give up. I won’t do that. I will not do that,” she said.
District Attorney General Barry Staubus told News Channel 11 he will attend the hearing and once again and voice his own opposition to Hamm’s release.
Per the parole board’s request, the Tennessee Department of Corrections confirmed Hamm has successfully passed multiple drug screenings since his August parole hearing but could not confirm whether the professional evaluation of risk to re-offend has taken place.
News Channel 11 will attend the Feb. 15 hearing and provide updates to this developing story.