The second of two men convicted in the 1982 slayings of a Chenango County man and a Broome County woman has died in prison, just weeks after his co-conspirator also died behind bars.
Thomas H. Marlowe, 71, formerly of Deposit, died late afternoon Thursday, March 5, at Elmira Correctional Facility, where he was serving 23½ years to life for his role in the deaths of James Wilcox, 19, of Afton, and Christine Kamide, 22, of Binghamton.
Herman D. Neu, 67, also of Deposit, died Wednesday, Feb. 17, at Mohawk Valley Correctional Facility in Rome.
“It was quite a shock,” said Afton resident Betty Wilcox, James’ mother. “I believe it’s justice, finally. Those two have to face the Lord. They’ll have to pay for what they did.”
James Wilcox was working alone at the Afton Country Store on state Route 41 at the time of his Sept. 16 death. Prosecutors said Neu waited until all other customers left the store before entering around 9:30 p.m., shooting Wilcox in the head and the chest with a .22-caliber revolver and removing $283 in cash from the register.
Wilcox recalled meeting Neu’s mother and sisters at his trial.
“I saw her sitting over there crying — she knew what her son had done, she knew he was guilty — and I said to my husband, ‘She’s losing a child just like we did. Thank God I’m on this side of the fence and not hers.’”
Five days after Wilcox’s murder, between 10:30 and 10:45 p.m. Sept. 21, Christine Kamide was alone, working behind the counter of a convenience store at the corner of Robinson and Moeller streets in Binghamton when Neu entered, shooting her in the head with the same revolver and similarly removing about $200 in cash from the register before fleeing.
“I couldn’t believe it — 15 days apart,” said Vestal resident Paul Kamide, Christine’s husband. “I couldn’t have planned it better if I tried.”
Marlowe and Neu were each convicted of two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of first-degree robbery. Neu, the triggerman, who was sentenced to 52 years to life, would not have been eligible for parole until 2033, but Marlowe, the getaway driver, became eligible for parole in 2006.
Every two years since, the Kamide and Wilcox families have petitioned the New York state Parole Board of Commissioners to keep Marlowe behind bars.
“We and the Wilcoxes don’t have to agonize every two years over this anymore,” Kamide said. “It’s not like I perseverate on it all the time. It’s every two years, but when it gets to be about six months out, it’s ‘here we go again.’”
“It’s kind of hard to believe it’s over,” Betty Wilcox said. “It’s a relief that we don’t have to go through the agony of the parole hearings and then sit and wait to see if he was going to get out.”
“We still have the agony and the pain of losing Jimmy,” she continued. “He was on the threshold of becoming a man, and it’s hard to think about all the things he missed out on: he’s never going to college, he’s never going to be a husband and have a family. It’s sad.”
Convicts who receive an indeterminate sentence, such as the 23½-years-to-life term Marlowe received, are permitted to seek parole after serving the minimum time. If parole is denied, the individual becomes eligible again after two years.
“I have to do something. Why would I want them to even consider letting out a monster like that?” Kamide said. “I’m a firm believer that without the support of the Southern Tier, all the people that sign the petitions and write letters, they might let them loose. Now we don’t have to worry anymore.”
“We’re not the only ones that have to go through that,” Kamide continued, comparing his family’s situation to that of Binghamton residents David and Jean Lindsey, whose 12-year-old daughter, Cheri, was murdered in March 1984 while collecting money on her paper route.
James Wales, now 72, was sentenced to 33 years to life in prison for first-degree rape and second-degree murder in connection with Cheri’s death. Wales became eligible for parole in 2017, but it has never been granted.
“Just when that wound was healing, it’s time to start digging at it again,” Kamide said of the parole petition process. “I don’t ever have to think about them again. They’re not relevant anymore. Jimmy and Christine will live on in all of our hearts and memories, and we go forward.”
Kamide said he was again informed of the news by his son, Paul Jr., who was 3 months old at the time of his mother’s murder.
The younger Kamide, now 38, said he received a Facebook message from a man claiming to be Marlowe’s son informing him of the death.
“I am so sorry you and your family had to go through all of this,” Kamide said the younger Marlowe wrote. “You won’t have to go through this anymore because my father is dead.”
“My instincts told me to trust, but verify,” Kamide said.
A quick search of the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision’s inmate database Friday morning showed Marlowe still incarcerated at Elmira Correctional Facility, where he has been imprisoned since 1984, but a phone call to the state Office of Victim Services confirmed Marlowe’s death.
The cause of death is expected to be determined by the Chemung County Medical Examiner’s Office and has not been released, but Kamide said he suspects it may have been COVID-related, given the news last fall of a prisonwide virus outbreak that infected more than 550 of the facility’s approximately 1,500 incarcerated individuals.
In the wake of the news, Wilcox said she and her family had received dozens of calls and messages from her son’s friends and former classmates, some of whom have moved away.
“It’s encouraging that they’re still thinking of us after all this time,” she said. “The Afton community has always been very supportive of us.”
“When I first heard the news, I didn’t know if I wanted to go have a drink or cry,” Kamide said. “It ended up that I did neither. I’m just taking solace in the fact that he’s gone.”
Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.