Girl's Slaying, Parolee's Arrest Upsets '79 Victim's Parents

Man Should Have Been Kept In Prison, Two Say

The parents of a boy whom Danny Rouse killed in 1979 say Kansas' parole board will have to shoulder some blame for this week's slaying of an Indiana girl if he's convicted in the latter crime.

Rouse, who was paroled in March after serving 26 years in prison for killing 5-year-old Jason Learst in Kansas, was arrested Wednesday in connection with the death of a 16-year-old restaurant co-worker, Stephanie Faye Wagner of Royal Center, Ind.

Police said Rouse, 51, admitted to stabbing Wagner on a roadside near Royal Center after she had stopped to help him on the side of a road following their departure -- in separate vehicles -- from work Tuesday night.

News of Rouse's arrest has horrified Learst's parents, who said Thursday that they had pleaded with Kansas' parole board to not let him out of prison.

"As a result of not keeping this individual in jail and having him serve his life sentence, (the board) is ultimately responsible for the death of this young girl," Learst's father, Allen Learst, told 6News during a telephone interview.

Kansas authorities said Rouse, in 1979, slit Jason Learst's throat while the boy was in bed in the child's Wichita home. Authorities said Rouse also stabbed the boy's mother, Kathryn Crowley, but Crowley survived and testified against Rouse.

Stephanie Faye Wagner

Rouse was convicted in 1980 of murder and aggravated battery and was sentenced to life in prison. At the time, convicted murderers in Kansas were allowed to appeal life sentences after 15 years.

Rouse was denied parole seven times before his release in March, 6News reported. Upon his release, Rouse requested that he be allowed to move to Indiana. His parole supervision was then transferred to a South Bend parole office, 6News reported.

Documents released Thursday by the Kansas Department of Correction state that Rouse was living in Monterey with his brother and sister-in-law. The couple had invited Rouse to live with them and their 17-year-old son, and were "very willing to assist Robert in becoming a law abiding citizen," according to the documents.

Crowley, speaking to 6News by telephone, said Thursday that the Kansas justice system has failed the Wagner family.

"I just feel the system failed. It failed me. It failed my son. I begged for this not to happen," Crowley said.

Allen Learst said he had written numerous letters to Kansas' parole board to ask it not to release Rouse.

"I felt somewhere inside me that it was definitely possible that he could commit another crime like that," Learst said, referring to his son's murder.

"It's important to keep the focus on his family that's going through a tough time right now," Learst added, referring to Wagner's relatives, "but I also think it's important that people look at what's going on with the parole board."

On Thursday, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius issued a statement calling for a review of the parole board's process.

"Kansans need to know what criteria they use, what information they consider, and how they make decisions," she said. "If there is a way to improve the process, we should do it, so Kansans will have confidence that something like this will never happen again."

The Kansas parole board's administrator, Colene Fischli, said the panel takes responsibility for its actions. The board's sympathies go out to Wagner's family, she said.

"The board made their decision back in March with the information that they had available to them," Fischli told 6News. "Certainly they wish they had a crystal ball to be able to tell if things like this would happen."

Rouse was being held Thursday in the Cass County (Ind.) Jail in connection with Wagner's death. He is expected to be charged on Friday.

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