Parole commission denies petition of man convicted of killing Winston-Salem cop

Tanya Tise knew the letter was coming. She just didn’t know when.

And when it finally arrived, Tise froze momentarily because she was about to learn whether the state Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission decided to release from prison the man who killed her husband, Lt. Aaron Tise of the Winston-Salem Police Department, in 1992.

“When I saw it in the mailbox, I hesitated to open it,” she said. “And when I finally did, I was only looking for that one word — denied.”

And when she read that the four-member parole commission had indeed turned down Conrad Crews’ request, Tise wept.

“I just stood out there and cried,” she said. “The man who does some work in my yard just looked at me and said ‘Are you OK?’”

Tise was fine.

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She was relieved that more than a month of anxiously waiting was over.

Opposing parole petition

Most folks, when they’ve lost a loved one, grieve and mourn in their own way and on their own time.

“Everybody’s different,” Tise said.

Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays, of course, bring back memories. Many, if not most, are happy even if they are tinged by absence.

But the family and friends of Lt. Aaron Tise, are forced to revisit the worst aspects of one of the worst days of their lives every three years.

That’s how often Conrad Crews, as is his right, is eligible to apply for parole.

And with that comes the opportunity for those directly involved to testify for and against Crews’ supervised release.

“As long as I have a breath in my body, I’ll fight his release,” said Bailey Howard, a retired Winston-Salem police officer and one of Tise’s closest friends, in April before he spoke his piece to the five-member parole board.

That’s understandable given what he lived through early on the morning of June 26, 1992.

Howard and Tise, both lieutenants, were working. Each had responsibility for roughly half the city — Tise the east and Howard the west.

Shortly after 1:30 a.m., officers responded to a call about teenagers fooling around with construction equipment parked off New Walkertown Avenue. They didn’t find anything (or anyone) but two hours later, after another call, they did.

A road grader was careening through the Lakeside Apartments. Tise had pulled his cruiser to the side of one of the narrow streets; the grader smashed into his car at an estimated 35 mph.

He didn’t stand a chance.

Four young men were charged the next day with first-degree murder, assault and larceny. Charges against three were dropped because prosecutors said they didn’t have enough evidence.

It was a different story for a fourth man, 19-year-old Conrad Crews, who was identified as the driver.

Crews was indicted for first-degree murder; a year later in July 1993, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. A judge sentenced him to life in prison.

‘Glad it’s over’

Inmates convicted between 1981 and 1994 were — and still are — allowed to petition for parole. An overhaul in state sentencing law mostly did away with the practice.

But in those days, life didn’t really mean life. In actuality, a life sentence meant 20, maybe 25 years or until the prisons got too full.

Which ironically is why Crews was free the night Lt. Aaron Tise was killed.

Crews was released from prison in 1991 after serving four months of a five-year stretch handed down after he was convicted of firing a shotgun at two police officers.

Overcrowding caused state officials to release some inmates after they’d served roughly a month for every year of their sentence.

“Raleigh,” Howard said before a decision on Crew was made public. “The irony is, Crews should have been in prison when Aaron died. He caught every break they could give a person.”

Not this time, though.

The parole board, via the U.S. Postal Service, made its decision known.

Tanya Tise received her letter around Memorial Day. Relieved, she only shared the news with family and close friends at first.

Her thoughts both before and after the board’s decision have been consistent. She knew in April — and knows now after hearing from the parole board — that the vote, up or down, was out of her control.

“Everything has been real stressful,” she said. “I’m just glad it’s over.”

At least until April 2027, that is.