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After more than 22 years in prison, Sylacauga woman is granted parole

Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles logo

A Sylacauga woman who pleaded guilty to killing her boyfriend in 1999 will be getting out of prison three years early.

Donna M. Riggins, 48, was charged in the stabbing of Johnny Jerome Silman, then 37, in the home they both lived in on Clay Street in Sylacauga in November 1999. According to court records, she pleaded guilty to murder in 2001 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison by Circuit Judge Jerry Fielding. According to Alabama Department of Corrections records, Riggins has served 22 years, 15 days of her sentence, most recently at the Birmingham Community Work Center, when her request for parole was granted by the state Board of Pardons and Paroles on Jan. 6.

According to the board’s minutes, two people, including Riggins’ son, spoke in favor of parole. A victim’s advocate and a representative of the Alabama Attorney General’s Office spoke against.

The minutes also state that, upon release, Riggins must perform 100 hours community service, Moral Reconation Therapy and undergo a mental health followup and drug assessment.

The official website for Moral Reconation Therapy describes MRT as “a cognitive-behavioral treatment program” designed to reduce recidivism among “substance abuse and inmate populations.”

Riggins was one of five people with convictions in Talladega or St. Clair counties to come before the board last week, including two others (Lonnie Dwain Brewster and Vickie C. Howard) also serving time for murder, as well as Jeremiah John Spiracos (rape and sodomy of a 12-year-old runaway) and John Steven Barnett, who was convicted of robbing Lucky’s Food Mart with a gun in 2014. Brewster, Howard, Spiracos and Barnett were all denied parole.