KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — This 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 drunk while driving his car.
Mike would lose his life because of the mistake. His family would lose their rock. After serving half of his 14-year sentence on a drunk driving homicide conviction, Hamm is again seeking release from prison before the state parole board.
“It is not forgotten. It’s still very much in the minds of the community,” said Mike’s widow, Debbie Locke.
Debbie collects signatures of support, each more than just a name. She wrote a petition asking the parole board to deny Hamm parole. She estimates that around a thousand local people have signed up. Petitions are being launched at many businesses in Kingsport, including the Hot Dog Hut, founded by Mike Locke.
“I will fight until the end. This is not about forgiving. This is about honoring Mike and the justice he deserves,” Debbie Locke said.
In August, Hamm appeared virtually for his final parole board hearing. The board decided not to grant him parole at that time, but decided to review the case six months later. The parole board asked Hamm to take multiple drug tests and undergo a professional reassessment for risk of recidivism.
The upcoming Feb. 15 hearing will mark Hamm’s fourth time on parole.
Debbie Locke says many people who are family members of victims cannot bear the emotional burden of fighting for justice.
“But I lost everything. So why not?” Debbie asked.
HOPE for Victims founder Joan Berry says the endless process of parole hearings leaves victims’ families no peace.
“It’s a constant battle and you think about it every day,” Berry said. She attended previous hearings in support of the Locke family and Hamm’s parole denial.
HOPE for Victims advocates at the state level for truth in sentencing, which requires offenders to serve a substantial portion of their prison sentence.
“We just want what’s right. We want justice. We want it to be fair,” Berry said.
Debbie says for her own family and for others going through the same thing, she won’t be silent.
“I really feel like what the state wants is for me to give up. I won’t do that. I won’t do that,” she said.
District Attorney General Barry Staubus told News Channel 11 he would attend the hearing and again voice his own opposition to Hamm’s release.
At the request of the parole board, the Tennessee Department of Corrections confirmed that Hamm had passed multiple drug tests since his parole hearing in August, but could not confirm whether the professional risk assessment recurrence had occurred.
News Channel 11 will attend the February 15 hearing and provide updates on this developing story.