Special Report: A Killer Back Behind Bars

PORTSMOUTH,  Va. (WAVY) -- When news broke of a Portsmouth murder arrest on June 8, Charlie Buchanan couldn’t believe his eyes.

"I was watching channel 10," Buchanan said. "Franklin W. Layne III. Whenever I hear 'Layne,' that kind of catches my attention."

Portsmouth police say Layne shot and killed 70-year-old John Nunamaker on Chippewa Trail during an argument. Detectives haven't yet said the circumstances behind the alleged murder.

"I started to get a little upset, because the pieces started to fall together that this was the same man," Buchanan said. "Now, I have a lot of questions and I don't know how they are going to be answered."

Thirty minutes from scene on Chippewa, Buchanan has spent the last 30 years trying to forget the name Franklin Layne.

"This is not supposed to happen in my life," Buchanan said.

On June 17, 1987, Portsmouth police were called out to home on Sumpter Street. Police found 64-year-old Leroy “Buck” Buchanan dead on his living room floor.

Buchanan was a Merchant Marine who served in World War II.

"He was a good guy,” a neighbor said in 1987. “He was the best. He would do anything for anybody. He really was."

Officers quickly arrested Buchanan's next door neighbor, Franklin Layne III.

"He supposedly stabbed my father and beat him,” Buchanan said. “He beat him so bad he wasn't recognizable... He may have been still alive when Frankie left the house."

Layne was charged with capital murder and robbery.

Layne told police Buchanan owed him $100. He stole the victim’s wallet before leaving the house.

"It was kind of like a ton of bricks hitting me,” Buchanan said. “I expected him to outlive me."

The case never went to trial. Layne took a plea deal and his charge was reduced to first-degree murder. In 1988, he was sentenced to life in prison.

The years passed and the pain started to lift. That was until 2012, when Charlie got a letter in mail letting him know that Layne was getting paroled after 25 years.

"I figured life was life,” Buchanan said. “I thought, 'I won't have to deal with anymore.'"

10 On Your Side called the Virginia Parole Board. We were told that Layne was a model offender while behind bars. In March 2012, the five-member board -- appointed by then-Governor Bob McDonnell -- voted for Layne's release. Months later, he walked about of prison and was placed on lifetime supervision. Parole Board Chairwoman Adrianne Bennett says he has been exemplary on supervision since returning to society.

The Virginia General Assembly abolished parole in 1995, meaning criminal defendants sentenced to prison after 1995 have no opportunity for parole at all. Since Layne was sentenced before then, he was still eligible.

Layne's family tells 10 On Your Side he is an Army vet who is bipolar, suffers from PTSD and has also battled substance abuse.

"A few times I thought I would like to look him in the face, just ask him why and get an answer," Buchanan said.

Layne finds himself now back behind bars awaiting his day in court. He will have a preliminary hearing in July. He declined 10 On Your Side's request for an on-camera interview.

“I just didn't want to be reminded that he was murdered," Buchanan added. "This has brought it all back -- how he met his end. I know he would still be kicking around if Frankie Layne hadn't ended it for him."

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