Notorious "fatal attraction" killer Jennifer Reali has died, just three months after being released on parole.
The Colorado Department of Corrections on Thursday confirmed that the 55-year-old Reali died March 24 but offered no other details.
The Colorado Springs woman became known as the "fatal attraction" killer following the murder of Dianne Hood in 1990. Reali, then 28, had donned camouflage and a ski mask when she ambushed Hood as she left a lupus support meeting in Colorado Springs. Reali testified that her lover, Brian Hood, persuaded her to kill his wife, claiming it was "God’s plan."
Reali’s niece, Carly Dudley, confirmed to The Gazette on Wednesday that Reali "did pass," but declined to provide details, saying "the family is not making a comment at this time." Reali’s mother, Gail Vaughan, who lives in Washington state, did not return calls for comment.
In October, during Reali’s fourth and final hearing before being granted parole, she told the review board she was back in chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer, for which she was diagnosed in 2014. Her white hair was buzzed so short her scalp showed in parts, but she said the treatments "have been very successful."
She was released Dec. 12.
The fact that Reali managed to graduate to parole while dealing with terminal cancer and the normal challenges of readjusting to life outside prison was a testament to her commitment to turn her life around, said Denver attorney Phil Cherner, who helped Reali transition to a community-based prison alternative her last years.
"The fact that she got through without breaking any rules is remarkable," he said. "She had incredible dedication and a really stiff spine."
Cherner said he’s still reeling from the news of her death from cancer.
"I cried," Cherner said. "What was so hard was that we worked for so long to get her out. Just as she got out, she got this diagnosis."
Reali received a life sentence for first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, but Gov. Bill Ritter commuted her sentence in 2011, making her eligible for parole. The act of mercy came after Reali received support from an unlikely source – her prosecutor.
Former 4th Judicial District Attorney John Suthers pointed out to Ritter that Reali’s testimony was critical to landing a conviction against Brian Hood – saying he "manipulated" Reali into participating – and that she was unlikely to harm anyone again.
"I told Governor Ritter that I did not see her as any kind of continuing danger to the public in any way, shape or form," said Suthers, now mayor of Colorado Springs.
Her requests for parole were denied in 2014, 2015 and 2016 before being granted in 2017.
"She didn’t have an opportunity to have much of a life with her children," Suthers said. "All around, it’s a very tragic story."
Still, Reali spent her last years in relative freedom as part of the Intensive Supervision Parole Inmate program, which allowed her to drive a vehicle, hold a job and live life unshackled in a Denver apartment she shared with a cat and a dog.
At her parole hearing in October, Reali told the board that she "believes in redemption," and that she’d changed.
"It makes me mad, very mad, that somehow I could come to a place that I did that," Reali said of the murder, adding that the person she was "is dead and gone, and I’m glad. She needed to go."
She was working at Inside Out Ministries, helping connect other offenders to resources – which she said reduces recidivism – and was part of The Urban Ministry Institute in Denver. She also blogged and spoke at community churches.
A spokeswoman at Inside Out Ministries declined to answer questions about Reali, saying she can’t discuss employees. Mike Dicke with The Urban Ministry Institute said Reali hadn’t worked there in a year and he had no knowledge of her passing.
Prior to Reali’s release, Diane Hood’s son, Jarrod Hood, said he and his siblings had forgiven Reali. It’s what his mother would have wanted, he told The Gazette.
"(She) taught me to be a good sport and to walk in the fruit of the Spirit…I will honor her legacy by continuing in the way of Christ," Jarrod Hood said. "I believe in the power of forgiveness."
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