2007-02-15 / Island Life

Dupnik parole denied


BENNIE RAY DUPNIK BENNIE RAY DUPNIK A state panel has denied parole to Bennie Ray Dupnik, who has served nearly 29 years behind bars for the murder of Gladys "Shorty" Fowler, founder of "Shorty's Place," a longtime Port Aransas bar.

The state Board of Pardons and Paroles made its decision on Feb. 7, said Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Dupnik won't consider granting Dupnik parole again until 2010, Lyons said. Dupnik, who committed the crime in 1978, when he was 16 years old, will turn 49 in 2010.

Fowler's granddaughter, Joy George, was pleased with the parole board's decision.

"I guess all I can say is he will have at least three more years to think about what he did," George said.

George said she appreciated the fact that so many people supported her in her efforts to keep Dupnik behind bars.

George wrote a letter opposing Dupnik's parole and sent it to parole authorities. She gathered signatures on the letter from nearly 100 people - some family, but mostly friends, she said. She said she also wrote a letter opposing parole for Dupnik, made copies of it and gave them to eight people who said they would sign their copies and send them to the parole board.

George said about half of the people who lent their support were Port Aransas residents. Others were Winter Texans; residents of Corpus Christi and other Texas cities; and even some non-Winter Texans who live outside the state.

Fowler established Shorty's Place in 1946 and ran it until her death at age 72.

On May 25, 1978, Dupnik beat F o w l e r t o death with a pool cue while they were alone in the bar. Dupnik took some money from the bar and fled in Fowler's car. He was arrested the same day.

Dupnik was tried as an adult, convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison. He has been considered for parole several times over the years but was denied each time.

Fowler's daughter, Rose Smithey - George's mother - owns Shorty's Place today. Many who lent their support to George's letter-writing campaign knew Fowler, Smithey and their family personally and have been customers at Shorty's Place for years, George said.

"I think (the support came) because mainly they felt the warmth they've been afforded by our family (at Shorty's)," George said. "My mom supports a lot of events, local charities, just people in need. She does the same thing my grandmother did."

Dupnik is incarcerated at the Ramsey Unit at Rosharon, south of Houston. In a letter he wrote to the parole board in 2003, he said he meant to knock Fowler out and rob the bar but not to kill her. He said he was sorry he committed the crime. He said he has worked hard to be a good candidate for parole, showing good behavior, earning a college degree, learning trades and working as a carpenter in the prison's furniture factory.

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