Convicted of murdering his live-in girlfriend in 1993, inmate granted special parole

A former Burlington man who was convicted in 1993 of murdering his live-in girlfriend has been approved for parole through a special program.

The state Parole Commission has announced that parole has been approved for Jeffrey Maurice Willis, black, male, 51, via the Mutual Agreement Parole Program (MAPP).

Then 22, Willis had been originally charged with first-degree murder in the death of Katheryn L. Benton, black female, whose dead body was discovered at the couple’s home at 1710 Hilton Road in Burlington on July 11, 1993.

Willis turned himself in at the Burlington police department the following day, the case background states.

Benton’s cause of death, listed on the police report as strangulated, had been preceded by an argument and struggle with Willis, who ultimately admitted to killing her, according to the case background.

In November 1993, Willis pled guilty to second-degree murder in Benton’s death.  He had no prior criminal record, according to his state Department of Corrections (DOC) file.

To be eligible for enrollment in the MAPP program, inmates must be within three years of parole and meet several other requirements, according to the state Department of Public Security (DPS), which oversees the North Carolina prison system.  The special parole program is designed to prepare inmates for release through structured activities; scheduled progression in custody levels; participation in community-based programs; and established parole dates, according to the DPS.

Willis is currently incarcerated at Orange Correctional Center, a minimum-security prison for men in Hillsborough, according to the DOC.

The announcement from the North Carolina Post-Release Supervision & Parole Commission lists his release date as March 3, 2025.

Participation in the special parole program is also limited to inmates who:  were convicted before October 1, 1994, when the state’s current sentencing laws took effect, eliminating parole for certain convictions; have no pending charges and are currently imprisoned in a medium or minimum-security prison; and have received no infractions during the 90 days prior to being recommended for MAPP, the special parole program.

To be recommended for MAPP, “the inmate should express a desire to participate in improving educational achievements, learning skills, personal growth programs and modifying specific behavior,” based on a description of the program from DPS.  More than 20,000 inmates are released from state prison each year, according to DPS, which describes MAPP as one of several programs that enable former inmates to successfully reenter their home communities each year.