(MARTINSVILLE) - Family members of fallen Morgan County Reserve Deputy Tom Dunigan learned Friday that the man who shot and killed him in 1975 died in prison.
78-year-old Hiram Cobb had been in prison for about 34 years. Cobb's last parole hearing was in November 2010. Even though Dunigan's murder was in 1975, people remembered and signed petitions asking the parole board to deny Cobb's request, which they did.
On December 26, 1975, Cobb robbed the First National Bank branch in Waverly. Several law enforcement officers responded to the call. Dunigan, who was driving a marked sheriff's department vehicle, met a pickup truck driven by Cobb on Maple Turn Road. When Dunigan passed the truck, Cobb shot him with a shotgun. Dunigan died of his injuries.
Cobb later was caught and stood trial in 1977. He was convicted of murder and robbery resulting in serious bodily injury. Cobb contended that he shot Dunigan in self defense because the deputy took a shot at him. Evidence showed that Dunigan's weapon was still in its holster and never had been fired.
Due to the state's death penalty being removed from the law, Cobb was given a sentence of life in prison. At the time, a life sentence was considered to be 50 years and, with good-time credit, a person could be released in 25 years.
Cobb has had a hearing every year around Christmas asking to be released from prison since the time he was eligible for parole or clemency.
During the hearings, Cobb has blamed others, including Dunigan's family, for keeping him in jail. He never admitted to the facts of the case and, during his parole hearing in 2010.
Cobb said he wanted to stay in prison because he "had nothing outside." It was Cobb's hearings that helped change the law that allowed an inmate to have a parole hearing every five years instead of every year.
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