Convicted Murderer Released After 18 Years in Prison

Stacey Lannert shot and killed her father when she was 18 years old. Now, after spending almost two decades in prison, she is a free woman.

Her clemency petition sat on the desk of three different Missouri governors, until Gov. Matt Blunt commuted Lannert's life sentence in January after an "exhaustive review of the evidence" in which he determined that Lannert had suffered extensive abuse at the hands of her father, Thomas Lannert. She was released from prison shortly after that.

"I still can't believe it," Lannert, 36, said of her release. "I'm very humbled and grateful, just so thankful to God. I know that I made mistakes, but the rest of my life was a huge -- a harsh sentence. And just hoping that eventually that I'd receive another chance."

St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch, however, thinks Lannert is a manipulative liar who deserves to live out the rest of her life in prison.

"I have not changed my mind at all about Stacey Lannert. She murdered her father for his inheritance, and solely for his inheritance," he said, referring to the estate worth nearly $500,000 that she stood to inherit. McCulloch also argued that Lannert "spent wildly," forging her father's name on checks and using his credit cards before she took his life.

"She was never sexually abused by her father or anyone else, and she ought to be back in the penitentiary, and shame on Gov. Blunt for letting her out," McCulloch said.

But Lannert denies having "spent wildly" and said her father knew about the checks and the credit cards. She claims she killed her father to stop him from abusing her and her younger sister, Christy. Money, she said, had nothing to do with it.

"I wanted him to leave me alone. I wanted him to leave her alone. I didn't really necessarily want him to die, but I didn't want him to be able to ... hurt us again, to be able to get us," Lannert told ABC News correspondent Cynthia McFadden in 2002. ABC News has covered Lannert's story for the past seven years.

A Long-Running Horror Story

Lannert shot her father point blank while he was passed out drunk on the couch, eventually confessing to police that she "hated him" and that "he needed to die."

Her sister told McFadden they both felt that way at the time.

Christy Lannert said she was in first grade when her father started beating her, and that she was 12 when her father began pushing her to drink alcohol with him. The more he drank, she said, the more violent he became. To this day, she can't bear to see the home she and her sister grew up in.

"I don't care to see the stairs that he used to kick me down. I don't, I don't want to see the windows that I would have to climb out at night," she said. "So I didn't have to wake up being choked."

'Nobody Stopped Him'

Stacey Lannert said she was spared the beatings but suffered another kind of torture at the hands of her father. She was just 8, she said, when he started fondling her, and when that led to oral sex, she remembered wondering if all fathers were like that.

"I did not know until the very first time that he raped me. Because then it hurt and it was violent. And I could tell that that wasn't right," she said. "I was 9."

According to Lannert, her father continued to rape her over the next nine years, sometimes as often as three times a week.

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