After serving 30 years in prison for the 1981 murder of Mary Eula Sears, Wayne East will soon be released from prison.
East has never admitted to the crime. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted to keep East from returning to Abilene, the place he once called home. East is barred from living in Taylor, Jones, Runnels, Coleman and Callahan counties.
"I really never had a vision of being free," East said over the telephone at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston.
A Taylor County jury sentenced East to death in 1982 for the murder. The death sentence was downgraded to life in prison in 1997. East was approved for parole this past March.
"I mean it registered, but then again it didn't," the convicted murderer said.
East is scheduled to be released from prison any day now. He voiced some concerns about his release, saying, "What am I going to? Am I going out into madness? I'm already in here with madness, but what am I facing now?"
Thirty years after Sears was killed, East still maintains his innocence, saying he was never at her home that night.
"How do you put somebody on death row for a hoax? You don't know if he's guilty or not, but you gave this man a death sentence and you tried to kill him," he said.
East still keeps in contact with Sears' cousin, Julie Denny. After visiting him in prison and hearing his story, Denny was convinced he wasn't the person who killed her cousin. The two still keep in contact.
"She just wants me out and she doesn't really want to waste her time trying to pursue who is the guilty person, who is the killer. But I want to," East said.
Many people in Abilene, including the police chief, feel East got what he deserved.
"Personally, I don't want to see Wayne East released back to Abilene," commented Chief Stan Standridge of the Abilene Police Department.
East told KTAB it was never his plan to return to Abilene, but said he does have a goal after he gets out: to bring closure for himself and the family of Mary Eula Sears.
"There's too many people owed something out of this. I'm one, my kids, their grandkids. I think the other part of that is I feel like the other side deserves more than what they get," he said.
East was originally scheduled to be released November 10. His release date was pushed back after the Board of Pardons and Paroles opted not to let him return to Taylor County.