by Audrey Thomasson
RICHMOND—It’s been 31 years since an Essex County jury convicted Emerson Stevens of the abduction and murder of Mary Keyser Harding from her Ottoman home while her two pre-school children were sleeping the evening of August 22, 1985.
It was the second trial for then 32-year-old Stevens, a resident of Bertrand. A Westmoreland jury several months earlier had failed to reach a verdict.
Harding’s body was found floating in shallow waters of the Rappahannock River near Morattico five days after her disappearance. Stevens was convicted of strangling the 24-year old mother and cutting her body with a knife. He was sentenced to 164 years and one day in a state penitentiary.
Three weeks ago, the five-member Virginia Parole Board granted Stevens parole. Board chairwoman Adrianne Bennett said Stevens, now 63, has been a model inmate at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt.
“He has not had one single infraction during the time he has served,” said Bennett. “Also, he has contributed to positive things within the system.”
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