HOUSTON - The suspect arrested in connection with the murder of a 79-year-old woman has an extensive criminal history.
Police arrested the son of Janiel Bernard's former housekeeper, Michael Susberry, in the beating and stabbing death of Bernard.
According to the Hedwig Village Police Department, a maid found Bernard dead around 1 p.m. July 2 in the home located on Capri Street near I-10 and Voss.
Police say Bernard knew the suspect and let him into the house. They say Susberry pretended to slip and fall when he came out of the bathroom and head-butted Bernard when she leaned down to help.
According to police, the suspect then stabbed her several times and ransacked her home, taking several small items, and took off in her car.
Susberry's criminal history goes back nearly 30 years, starting when he was just 17 years old.
In 1979, Susberry was charged with aggravated robbery and kidnapping. The kidnapping charge was later dropped and he plead guilty to robbery. He was sentenced to three years.
In 1981, he was charged with theft of a motor vehicle.
Four years later, he was again charged with aggravated robbery. Court documents say he used a firearm to threaten injury or death to the man he was trying to rob. For that charge, Susberry was sentenced to life in prison.
Officers say the 55-year-old served just 20 years of that life sentence and was released on parole. Victim advocate Andy Kahan he should have sent back to prison long before he got the chance to kill Bernard.
"It's heartbreaking enough to lose a loved one like this, but then to find out the system could have possibly prevented it, it's a double sucker punch," Kahan said.
Kahan says Susberry violated his parole year after year starting in 2007, but culminating in 2015. HPD responded to Susberry's home that year for a family altercation. Police say he had attacked his brother with a knife and threatened another brother. The district attorney pressed charges of aggravated assault of a family member, but that charge was later lessened to a class A misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 340 days in county jail.
"Anyone with a dose of common sense would say it defies logic that someone on parole for a violent offense, who then commits another violent offense, like assault, should go back to prison," Kahan said.
But the parole board never sent him back to prison.
"They didn't pick up on it, they didn't send him back to prison and now we're here with this senseless tragedy," Kahan said.
Kahan believes Bernard's murder could have been prevented if the parole board would have done its job. The same situation happened in March of last year when Kiara Taylor shot and killed a 19-year-old working at a Bellaire pizza shop. He too should have been back in prison for violating his parole.
"We can't go back and change what happened in these cases, but we've got to make better for others that come along," Kahan said.
Police say Susberry has confessed to the murder, is in custody and will be charged with capital murder.
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