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Man who murdered young Heights sisters released after only 7 years behind bars

Edmond Degan was convicted in 2017 for the 1984 cold case murders of Yleen and Lillie Kennedy.

HOUSTON — It’s a cold case that was finally solved decades later. But now a family is  frustrated the man sent to prison for the murders of two sisters in the Heights after serving only seven years.

“It’s hard enough to lose one family member, much less two," said Jackie Elliott.

The memories still haunt her. Elliott was in 5th grade in 1984 when her aunts, Yleen and Lillie Kennedy, were murdered in The Heights.

“You have someone that murdered two people, brutally beat and raped one of them, 15 years in my opinion. which was the plea bargain, was not enough time," Elliott said.

Fifteen years in prison was the sentence given to Edmond Degan in 2017 after DNA connected him to the cold case. But, he was released this week thanks to a loophole in the law.

Credit: Family photo
Edmond Degan murdered Yleen and Lillie Kennedy in the Heights in 1984.

“Mandatory release was a Texas law enacted in 1977, mostly to alleviate prison overcrowding," said Andy Kahan, Director of Victims Services for Crime Stoppers.

The law has since been changed, but it didn’t work retroactively. That means crimes committed during the ten-year period from 1977 to 1987 still get the mandatory release.

“It’s your calendar time, known as your day-by-day time plus your good time credits, generally you get two days for every day served in a penitentiary as long as you maintain good behavior," said Kahan.

Meaning, as of December 1, 2021, Degan is free to walk out of prison.

“It was just a further stab in the heart that this mandatory release law would affect this case and that somebody would actually serve such little time in jail," said Elliott.

Elliott says her family was told Degan can not enter Harris County until 2030, as a condition of his parole. Something they will be watching closely.

“I feel like what I thought justice would be was not served," Elliott said.

We reached out to Degan’s former attorney for comment, but did not hear back 

He is the second high-profile offender released under this law in the last few months. 

The other, Clyde Hedrick, served eight years of a 20-year sentence for the murder of Ellen Beason in 1984.