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Freedom may be months away, but Brockton family rejoices over William Allen’s commuted life sentence

Thurston Allen with a picture of his son, William Allen, as the family celebrated the commutation of William's prison sentence in Brockton on Thursday.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

BROCKTON — William Allen’s family is “just waiting on him to come home.”

Allen, 48, has spent more than half his life behind bars for murder, serving a sentence of life without parole. He is one of two men given a new lease on life this week when Governor Charlie Baker approved their commutation requests, making them eligible for parole.

Allen’s relatives on Thursday gloried in his second chance at life, and began their countdown to his freedom.

“I want to thank everybody for everything that everybody did for my son. I appreciate it. My family appreciates it,” Allen’s father, Thurston Allen, said from the front porch of his home in a joyful expression of gratitude. He was flanked by his fiancee, Allen’s lawyers and prison pastor, along with members of the Brockton Interfaith Community.

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The gathering was punctuated with cupcakes to celebrate William Allen’s Jan. 3 birthday.

Although it may take several months more before Allen goes free, his father said his heart was full of feelings in anticipation of his release. He said he’d saved up plenty of home projects for his son to help him with.

Frances Bynoe, Thurston Allen’s fiancee, said she was eager to prepare William Allen his first home-cooked meal when he got out — his choice, just name it.

The family held faith “that William was going to get out,” Bynoe said. “It was just a matter of time, it was a matter of being patient. And we still have to be a little patient.”

Bynoe said William Allen “made a mistake” but his heart is good and he’s put his time behind bars to good use.

One of Allen’s lawyers, Kris McDonald, explained Allen’s next steps and why it would likely be months before he regains his liberty. She also shared William Allen’s sentiments.

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“William is ever mindful of the tragedy that brought us to today and the loss of life, for which he will always carry deep, deep remorse,” McDonald said. “He is eternally grateful for the amazing grace and forgiveness that has been extended to him.”

Allen was convicted of murder for taking part in a fatal armed robbery of a reputed drug dealer in Brockton in 1994. At age 20, he helped another man rob Purvis Bester and was in another room when that man stabbed Bester to death, according to testimony.

Allen was convicted of first-degree murder because a jury found he participated in a felony that resulted in a death. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

Allen filed a petition for executive clemency in 2017 to seek a commutation, or a reduction in his sentence. In September, the state Advisory Board of Pardons unanimously recommended that Baker commute his conviction from first- to second-degree murder, making Allen eligible for parole.

Among the final steps in the process is a hearing before the Governor’s Council, an eight-member elected board plus the lieutenant governor. The council will make the final decision whether to commute the sentence of Allen — along with that of Thomas E. Koonce — from life without parole to life with the possibility of parole after 15 years.

Allen has already served nearly 28 years.

Terrence Kennedy, a member of the Governor’s Council, told the Globe that he and fellow Councilor Paul DePalo visited Koonce and Allen in prison, and that he believes both “earned the opportunity to be free.”

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Koonce, 54, was sentenced to life without parole for the 1987 slaying of a New Bedford man.

“Both men have done extraordinary things while in jail, mentored other inmates, and advanced themselves,” Kennedy told the Globe Wednesday. He said he expects to vote in favor of the commutations, and suggested that while he couldn’t speak for the rest of the eight-member board, “that is a fairly progressive council that believes in second chances.”

The commutations are the first granted by a sitting governor since 2014, when Deval Patrick approved the early release of a woman convicted of cocaine distribution, and the first of a life sentence in 25 years.

Allen has a dream of being a force for good in his community, McDonald said.

While in prison, he earned a barber’s license, furthered his education, and received extensive training and state certification that enables him to work with people with disabilities, said Chaplain Peg Newman, who has known Allen for a decade.

“I can tell you that Will Allen is an extraordinary human being,” Newman said Thursday at the family home. “He is kind, generous, caring, funny, wise, and hard working, to name just a few of his strengths.”

Allen is active in his faith, Newman said, and looks forward to joining a church when he gets home.

In Allen’s case, the victim’s daughter supported Allen’s request for commutation. He also received high-profile backing from members of the New England Patriots, notably safety Devin McCourty, who on Wednesday called news of Allen’s commutation “the greatest team victory I’ve ever been a part of.”

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Tonya Alanez can be reached at tonya.alanez@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @talanez.