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Board: Kidnapper to stay in prison

The man's victim pleads with parole officials to keep him locked in prison.

Scars are still visible on Sheri Jaffa's wrists, 23 years after she was kidnapped, tied to a post and left to die.

The emotional wounds reopen every 18 months, when she goes before the Florida Parole Commission to plead that her abductor, Jack McWilliams, stay locked up.

By a 3-0 vote Wednesday, the panel agreed again, putting off any consideration of McWilliams' parole until April 2001.

"Mr. McWilliams had choices to make. He could have chosen not to commit this crime, but he didn't. He could have chosen to tell someone where I was, but he didn't," Jaffa told the commission. "His choices are his problems now."

Dressed only in a bathrobe, Jaffa was kidnapped Sept. 22, 1976, by McWilliams and his girlfriend, Edith Burton. They demanded a $200,000 ransom. They left her tied to a post in a wooded area in Jacksonville for nearly four days without food or water. Her hands were bound with rope, cotton was stuffed in her mouth and duct tape covered her eyes and mouth. "I think about it every morning when I get dressed and I put on my watch to cover up the scar," she said.

During her ordeal, Jaffa said, "I prayed a lot. I didn't want to die. I had children to raise. I had living to do."

Her son Scott, now an architect in Park City, Utah, testified about the horror of having his mother kidnapped when he was 14 and the ordeal his mother and her family endured.

"McWilliams left her to die," Scott Jaffa said, his voice breaking with emotion. "For 92 hours, I did not know if my mother was dead or alive."

No one appeared on behalf of McWilliams, and the board voted with little discussion.

McWilliams, now 63 and in deteriorating health, became eligible for parole in 1987, but Sheri Jaffa has steadfastedly fought his release.

"To me, a life sentence should mean life," Jaffa told commissioners Wednesday.

McWilliams, the brother of one of Jaffa's business associates, was arrested the day after McWilliams' girlfriend led police to her.

He was charged with kidnapping in one of the most publicized crimes in Jacksonville history, and Circuit Judge Susan Black sentenced him to life after he pleaded guilty.

His family believed he would serve seven to 10 years before being released. Even convicted killers sentenced to life have served less, they argue.

"I think that my father has met all the criteria to be released," McWilliams' daughter, Angelia McWilliams Schultz, told the Florida Times-Union.

"He has proven himself to be rehabilitated in every sense of the word," said Schultz, now 35, who lives in Atlanta. "What I don't understand is the inability on Ms. Jaffa's part to find some way to allow him a moment of peace before he passes from this place. Healing takes forgiveness in some level."

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