Old Murder Cases Heard By Pardons Board

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Clemency requests from a former death row inmate and from a man convicted in a contract killing case were granted Friday by the Nevada Pardons Board.

But the panel chaired by Gov. Kenny Guinn rejected requests for eased sentences from an aging inmate convicted in the 1967 Las Vegas torch slaying of his wealthy wife and from a prisoner doing time for a Reno undercover officer's knifing death.

The board eased the no-parole life term of Frank LaPena, 65, to life with possible parole. He plans an immediate effort to get a parole after serving 22 years in jail and prison for his role in the 1974 contract murder of Hilda Krause, whose throat was slit in her Las Vegas Country Club home.

Gerald Weakland admitted killing Krause, but said he was paid to do it by LaPena and Rosalie Maxwell so that Maxwell could marry the victim's husband, casino executive Marvin Krause, and funnel his money to LaPena.

Weakland cut a deal that made him eligible for parole after five years in prison. Maxwell was acquitted, but LaPena got life without possible parole. He was out of prison for several years in the 1980s, but after a second trial was convicted again in 1989; and was out for more than a year in the 1990s until losing a bid for a third trial.

The Pardons Board also changed the no-parole life term of former death row inmate James Allen, 44, to life with possible parole. Allen, imprisoned for the 1980 killing of a man during a home break-in in Las Vegas, had been unsuccessful in three previous appearances before the board.

The board rejected a clemency request from Sylvester Azbill, sentenced to a no-parole life term for the 1967 torch slaying of his 61-year-old wife. Azbill, 37 at the time, was convicted of dousing Rose Mapel Azbill with lighter fluid and setting her afire as she slept.

The woman had inherited a multi-million-dollar estate when her former husband, Las Vegas hotel executive Ed Mapel, died three months before she married Azbill. The torch murder occurred three months after her marriage to Azbill.

Azbill, now 77, sought clemency due to medical problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, the first signs of Alzheimer's and deteriorating eyesight.

But Clark Peterson, chief deputy Clark County district attorney, opposed any lighter sentence for Azbill, saying the crime was so severe and gruesome that "this is a case where life without can mean life without."

Guinn agreed no sentence change was warranted given the horrific nature of the crime, saying, "To me, this goes way beyond anything I can think of."

Also rejected was a request from Steve Olausen, 42, who is serving multiple, consecutive terms for his role in the 1979 killing of undercover Reno narcotics officer James Hoff. Olausen wanted his double, no-parole life sentences and related sentences to be modified to life with possible parole. Instead of running consecutively, the terms would run concurrently.

Hoff was making what he thought was a drug buy for about $16,000 when Olausen and three other men turned on him. He was stabbed repeatedly. Edward Wilson was sentenced to death in the case, and Olausen, Fred Stites and David Lani got life terms.

The request was opposed by Hoff's cousin, Dawn Rice of Reno, and by Washoe County District Attorney Dick Gammick. Olausen, who had won a favorable court ruling that got him off death row after 10 years, already has "had his break," Gammick said.

The board also turned down a clemency request from Heidi Hartkopf, 32, a former topless dancer convicted in the 1994 robbery and murder of Las Vegas cabbie Alexander Popov. Police said Popov was killed after going to a hotel to have sex with Hartkopf. Hartkopf wanted a 12-year consecutive term for robbery to be run concurrently with her life term with possible parole.