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Trying to Avoid Reliving the Crime : Crime: In a case that was basis of 'Till Death Do Us Part,' a woman wants the state not to consider her ex-husband for parole.

August 13, 1992|AMY LOUISE KAZMIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

GLENDALE — Seven times in the past 10 years, Lela Halverson has traveled to San Luis Obispo, has sat in a small state prison conference room with her former husband--the man who tried to kill her--and has pleaded with parole officials not to free him.

"It's torture," the Glendale woman said of the trips and her fear of the possible outcome of the hearings. "The thought of him being released is more terrifying then you can imagine."

Halverson is again preparing to make the trip north for the Sept. 3 parole hearing for convicted murderer Paul Perveler, 55, whose crimes were fictionalized in the best-selling novel "Till Death Do Us Part," which was written in 1978 by the prosecutor, then Deputy Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Vincent Bugliosi.

Meanwhile, for the second time, a local legislator is mounting a postcard campaign to persuade the state Board of Prison Terms to deny Perveler parole and to postpone any future hearings for at least three years.

Mike MeCey, an assistant to state Assemblyman Pat Nolan (R-Glendale), who is sponsoring the drive, said Halverson should be spared from the grueling ordeal of facing her ex-husband and reliving the crime.

"We are asking that she be given several years of respite," he said.

MeCey said that about 33,000 residents of Nolan's district this week will receive letters and tear-off postcards, which they can send to the board.

Perveler, a former Los Angeles police officer, was convicted in 1969 of murdering his second wife and his girlfriend's husband to collect insurance money, and of attempting to murder Halverson, who had been his first wife, in a similar scheme. He received the death penalty.

But when the California Supreme Court decided in 1972 that the death penalty was unconstitutional, the sentence was commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole--the next most severe punishment at the time.

Since then, the death penalty has been reinstated and a new sentence--life in prison without possibility of parole--has been added to the state's lawbooks. Nevertheless, the killer once sentenced to die in the gas chamber has been allowed, virtually every year since 1983, to make a case as to why he should be freed.

Perveler's attorney, David Weilbacher of Arroyo Grande, could not be reached for comment. However, in the past he has argued that his client is being denied parole unfairly because of the notoriety that the case has achieved and because Nolan has made the matter a "political issue." A 1983 postcard campaign initiated by the assemblyman persuaded authorities to reopen the parole proceedings after Perveler was given a release date. That date was subsequently rescinded.

Halverson--who said Perveler has threatened to kill her if he is ever released--said the hearings and the fear of her former spouse's eventual release take a high emotional toll. Although she is remarried and trying to live a normal life, she says she takes special precautions to keep her home and work addresses a secret.

"With most normal things in life, you suffer for a while, but then after a while time heals," Halverson, 54, said. "This is a constant. Over and over and over, I have to relive this."

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