Wife of former state rep. killed by drunk driver starts petition to deny culprit parole

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – In over seven years, the family of former Tennessee State Rep. Mike Locke has started three petitions, all with one goal: to keep the drunk driver who killed their loved one behind bars.

In 2014, Rep. Locke was killed on a stretch of road in Colonial Heights by James Hamm Jr. who was driving while intoxicated. For the third time since his conviction, Hamm is asking to be released, and for the third time, Locke’s family is circulating a petition to stop that from happening.

“This is actually the third petition that I’ve done. He comes up for parole, every other year, about six to eight months after sentencing he asked for a new trial. And at that time it just set my mind to thinking, ‘What should I do to make sure that he serves his time that he was given?’ And so we came up with the idea of a petition,” Debbie Locke, Mike Locke’s widow, told News Channel 11.

In 2019, she made her petition digital as well.

“Mike was a great community leader. He was a wonderful father. Excellent husband, and a good provider for us. James Hamm was selfish, thinking only of himself when he got in that car and murdered Mike. He endangered a lot of other people along the way that night, and he may say that he’s sorry now. I think he’s sorry because he got caught. And seven years is too late to be sorry, quite honestly,” she said.

She hopes to gain at least 5,000 signatures for her petition.

“I hope this time that I’ve got close to that, because of the way social media has changed and the way people feel about it. A lot of things have changed in the past year. And so, it’s been a different experience this time. And if I can just tell my story, for the most part, they know what kind of man Mike was, and they are most willing to sign. I’ve had a lot of people say,’ I’ll take a petition for you and get signatures for you,’ and thank goodness for that too. Because I mean, I walked the streets during Fun Fest, and, you know, most everybody signed,” Locke said.

She hopes to gain justice for her husband.

A club whose members say nobody wants to be in, Locke was supported by a fellow mourner.

Joan Berry wrote a letter to the parole board asking for James Hamm’s parole to be denied.

Joan Berry’s daughter, Johnia, was murdered in 2004. She wrote a letter to the parole board asking for Hamm’s parole to be denied.

“Doesn’t matter how long he’s been in prison, a victim never gets to, they don’t get a second chance to come back,” Berry said. “You know, we live our lives every day, missing our loved ones that’s life was taken to senseless, you know, a senseless crime. And not only do we miss them and we’re sad all the time we also, you know, we live in fear every day that justice is not going to be served to its full extent.”

The women ask for support from the public, especially those who knew Rep. Mike Locke.

“There are friends have Mike’s that when they come to visit at the house, they will still not sit in his favorite chair,” Locke said.

When asked how it makes her feel that her husband’s murderer is once again asking for release, Locke had only one answer:

“Bitter. Angry. Disgusted. It hurts so bad. Every time, for myself and for all other victims’ families that have to go through this. It just opens the wound, and salt is poured into it every time, but if I don’t do it. It’s like he’s won, and I will do it until there’s nothing left in may not do,” she said.

Hamm will appear before a judge for his parole hearing on August 5. Locke told News Channel 11 he would be attending virtually, but that she and her family members would be in Blountville at the courthouse in person.

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