Man urged parole of killer charged in grandkids’ deaths
A Southfield man whose daughter was forced to watch the brutal killings of her children last month had lobbied a decade ago for the parole of the very suspect now accused in the quadruple slayings, records show.
Fred Harris, a pastor and civil rights activist, had pressed for the release of Gregory Green, who was imprisoned for killing his then-wife and unborn child in 1991, according to documents obtained by The Detroit News from the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Green is now accused of shooting his current wife — Harris’ daughter, Faith Harris-Green — and killing her four children.
The 78-year-old Harris, a popular pastor with the Church of the Risen Christ Ministries International in Detroit, wrote at least two letters supporting Gregory Green, a former congregant and future son-in-law.
“Gregory and I were friends before his mishap and he was incarcerated,” Harris wrote on Aug. 17, 2005. “I feel he has paid for his unfortunate lack of self control and the damage he has caused as much as possible and is sorry. This will not restore the lives that were taken; he will carry that with him for the rest of his life.”
The next year, Harris wrote again in support of Green’s release.
“I’ve noticed a great deal of growth and his understanding has matured quite a bit as well as his processing skills,” Harris wrote. “If he was to be released, he would be welcomed as a part of our church community, and whatever we could do to help him adjust, we would.”
Harris declined comment Tuesday evening when contacted at his home by a Detroit News reporter.
Gregory Green, now 49, was incarcerated for 16 years over the July 14, 1991, attack on former wife, Tonya Green, who was six months pregnant.
The woman was stabbed “several times to the face and chest area” and pronounced dead at Grace Hospital, according to corrections records. Gregory Green called police to the scene and showed detectives where to find the murder weapon, stashed in a refrigerator.
Green pleaded guilty in 1992 to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 15-25 years in prison.
Green was then denied parole four times — twice in 2004 and twice in 2006 — before being granted release in 2008, corrections officials said. At least five different parole board members signed off on his rejected attempts; members Enid Livingston and Barbara Sampson are listed on his successful 2008 bid after each played a role in denying Green’s previous requests for parole. Attempts to reach both Sampson and Livingston were unsuccessful on Tuesday.
Parole decisions are handled by three-member panels of the corrections department’s parole board, according to its policy and website. Just two are listed on Green's files because they cast the same vote, according to officials.
"Decisions can be made by the first two members of a three-member panel, if their votes agree," Corrections spokeswoman Holly Kramer said. "If their votes are different, then the third panel member casts a vote."
But even if the Parole Board had continued denying Green's release, he would have "maxed out" his sentence by 2012 because he was earning prison time-reducing disciplinary credits, Kramer said.
Two years after Green was released from prison, he married Harris-Green, on Dec. 18, 2010. Harris’ letters do not reveal whether Green knew his daughter before the man’s lengthy imprisonment.
But their relationship was a rocky one, with Harris-Green, 39, seeking divorce in October 2013 and again in August 2016.
A month later, authorities say Green called 911 at 1:15 a.m. Sept. 21 and waited for police in the driveway of his home on the 4400 block of Hipp in Dearborn Heights. Inside the home, investigators discovered Harris-Green in the basement, bound with tape and zip ties.
Prosecutors alleged Green tied up and assaulted his wife before making her watch him fatally shoot her two older children. Green also is suspected of killing their two young daughters with carbon-monoxide poisoning, officials said.
Green has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count each of assault with intent to do great bodily harm, torture, unlawful imprisonment, felonious assault as a felon in possession and felony firearm.Green is due in 20th District Court in Dearborn Heights on Wednesday for a probable cause conference.
His court-appointed attorney has said he planned to file a motion for an insanity defense, mirroring a tactic attempted after Tonya Green’s death.
Green also planned to use the insanity defense to explain why he stabbed his then-wife in 1991, according to documents in his court file. There was no information indicating the results of a mental competency examination ordered by a Wayne County judge.
Attitude delayed parole
Green was repeatedly denied parole over the 1991 murder because he showed little remorse and blamed his victim for his actions, his prison records show.
“(He) still can’t explain his murderous rage. Oddly, he did not utter a word of empathy or remorse,” officials wrote in a report dated Dec. 8, 2006. “Considering the brutality of the fatal crime, (Green) needs to enhance insight, empathy and remorse.”
The parole board made an about-face two years later and released Green.
“Reasonable assurance exists that the prisoner will not become a menace to society or to the public safety,” parole board officials wrote in a report dated Feb. 8, 2008. The documents listed Green’s projected release date as April 29, 2008.
“Accepts it as indicated,” officials wrote about Green’s view of his criminal past.
Officials in the 2008 report detailed terms of Green’s release, including abstaining from alcohol and abiding by a curfew. It is noted his crime was not sexual in nature and Green recognized the “value of good behavior.”
Green had completed a number of educational and psychological programs, the details of which were redacted from records obtained by The Detroit News through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Missing from that 2008 report were any apparent references to the parole board’s previous reports on a murderer lacking remorse and empathy, including this earlier statement:
“During the parole board interview, (Green) demonstrated little emotion or remorse over this horrendous crime,” officials wrote in a report dated Jan. 26, 2004. “The murder involved his wife, who was pregnant with (his) child. (Green) is unable to give background as to where his temper and violence developed from.”
By the end of 2004, Green also was openly blaming his victim for her death, records show.
“Despite completion of recommended therapy, (Green) has not gained adequate insight,” officials wrote in a report dated Dec. 27, 2004. “(He) explains his conduct as arising out of the (victim’s) mistreatment of him.”
By late 2006, Green was reported by the parole board to have “gained some insight” into his crime but blamed his actions “on past immaturity,” according to the document.
The parole board’s comments include frequently used words commonly found in parole denials, according to Natalie Holbrooke, program director with the prisoner advocate organization American Friends Service Committee.
“If (the parole board members) depart from the (sentencing) guideline, they have to provide substantial and compelling reasons,” Holbrooke said. “You will see (that language) in a lot of parole continuances. It’s the language that’s used.”
Parole boards set to release prisoners are not required in their decisions to detail whether inmates have shown remorse, empathy or any sorrow for their crimes, she said.
“It’s not required by the statue” to provide reasoning for release, she said.
“If anything, this is a good reason for parole interviews to be recorded,” said Holbrooke, noting such documentations are not done in Michigan. “Maybe (Green) did indeed develop some empathy and remorse. We don’t know.”
Green was released in 2008 because a parole board “determined he had accepted what happened,” the corrections department’s Kramer said.
“He had family and community support. Those are the kinds of things our board looks at when deciding whether to parole someone.”
Supervision had ended
Kramer pointed out the new allegations against Green surfaced more than six years after he was released from probation in 2010.
“This incident, while tragic, happened years after he was discharged from our supervision,” Kramer said. “Our parole board works hard to review the facts and information they have at the time to determine whether they have reasonable assurance that a prisoner wont re-offend ... and to make sure they make the most informed and responsible decision.
“It can still be very difficult to predict a person’s future behavior. Especially through a person’s lifetime.”
Information available to the 2008 parole board included Green’s model inmate behavior and glowing letters of support from family — both from his conviction and his previous attempts at parole.
Prison officials reported Green “follows the rules and keeps his area clean.” He interacted well with other inmates, receiving just one write-up over a fist fight with another man about the use of a television.
Letters to the parole board also showed support for Green. There were no letters written from 2004 to 2008 opposing his release, according to corrections officials.
“We believe Gregory is very sorry for what he did and has gained insight into his behaviors,” the man’s parents, Woodrow and Tommie Lee Green, wrote in a letter dated Nov. 22, 2006. “He has worked hard in prison and he continues to make a positive adjustment.”
The couple indicated in their letter their son would be welcome into their home upon release.
A sister of Green’s told the parole board about her brother’s apparent turn toward faith.
“Over the years, Greg has become closer to the Lord and reads his word daily,” Dedra Borders wrote on Nov. 22, 2006. “I believe this is what has helped Greg through this difficult and trying time.”
Staff writers Jennifer Chambers and Candice Williams contributed