With governor's reprieve, man released after murder-for-hire

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A man who was serving a life sentence in a 1994 murder-for-hire plot in Tennessee is out of prison and on parole after the former governor granted him a reprieve.

Jeremy Ingram was released from Morgan County Correctional Complex on Friday, according Tennessee Department of Correction records. Former Republican Gov. Bill Haslam commuted his sentence last January in one of his final official duties, saying the inmate had "undergone a transformation" behind bars.

Gina Sanjines, the intended target of the plot, was shot and partially blinded by Ingram in the attack in which her boyfriend was killed. She doubts Ingram has changed and fears she'll run into him again. She said she has no assurances otherwise. All she can do now is pray what Haslam saw in Ingram proves true, she said.

“This is a person who did not know me, did not know the man he killed,” Sanjines said Thursday. “And prior to him running me down in my home and shooting me in the head, I wouldn't have been able to pick him out of a lineup.”

Ingram leaves prison at a time when the country is largely looking to reform its reliance on locking up offenders. Commutations, meanwhile, have drawn new scrutiny after Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in Kentucky issued hundreds of pardons between his defeat in November and his final day in office last month, drawing waves of bipartisan criticism.

Ingram was 18 when he was paid $10,000 by Gina Sanjines' ex-husband to kill her in the Chattanooga area, court documents say. Sanjines was shot in the head three times but survived, with permanent blindness in her left eye, among other lifelong ailments. Ingram fatally shot her boyfriend, Virgil Schrag, who prosecutors say wasn't expected to be in the house when Ingram went to kill Sanjines.

Haslam's office said Ingram, now 44, has undergone a transformation and will have additional supervision conditions, including work, education and community service requirements. The former governor cited Ingram's four higher-education degrees and his participation in rehabilitation and faith-based programs.

"Mr. Ingram's offense was horrible, but his exceptional growth over the last 25 years has prepared him to be a positive contributor to society," Haslam wrote in his commutation.

Ingram received a sentence of life with the possibility of parole after 25 years. He has been in prison since 1994.

The month before Haslam granted Ingram's reprieve, the state Board of Parole denied Ingram's plea for mercy during an initial parole hearing due to the "seriousness of the offense," said board spokeswoman Melissa McDonald.

Ingram's clemency application says he wasn't strong enough to withstand the "evil influence and manipulation" of Sanjines' ex-husband, Jorge Ariel Sanjines, who was sentenced to life in prison. The clemency filing also says Ingram “takes full responsibility for his crime and is repentant.”

Ingram has said he plans to live in Knoxville with a family that belongs to the same church, and has job opportunities in mind.

Sanjines said Ingram still has family in the Chattanooga area, where she lives. If it “becomes necessary," she even said she would move, though it's not what she wants to do.

She said Ingram also has never reached out to apologize.

“The view from my window is completely different from that of the former governor,” Sanjines said.

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