The triggerman in New Hampshire’s sensational Pamela Smart murder case was granted parole Thursday, his 41st birthday, 25 years after the trial unfolded on a world stage, riveting television viewers with its details of sex, violence, and a teacher baiting her young lover.
William Flynn was just 16 in May 1990 when he shot and killed Smart’s husband, Gregory, at their Derry, N.H., condo. Flynn later told police that he had been having an affair with Pamela Smart, his teacher, and that she had persuaded him to murder her husband.
Flynn and three other boys involved in the murder testified against Smart, who was sentenced to life in prison for being an accomplice to first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and witness tampering.
Flynn pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 28 years to life in prison.
Speaking by phone from prison in Maine, Flynn told a New Hampshire parole board, “I will always feel terrible for what happened 25 years ago. Parole will not change that. The regret and responsibility that I feel are a part to me and not conditional on where I reside.”
Gregg Smart’s brother, Dean Smart, battling tears, encouraged Flynn to do something “great” with his life after his release, scheduled for June 4.
“I just hope you have learned some things from this epic mistake,” he told Flynn.
He also encouraged Flynn to keep his story to himself and resist the siren calls of book publishers and reporters — the “media circus” — that he said Pamela Smart had cultivated.
“You have served your time for the most part very privately and quietly, and I respect that because we as a family do not need to keep living this over and over again,” Dean Smart said.
For his part, Flynn said he has no intention of speaking to the media.
“I know that nothing I can say here will be a comfort to the Smart family, but at the very least, I sincerely hope this will be the last time that they have to be publicly reminded of their grief, and I am truly sorry for the pain that I have caused them,” Flynn said.
Donna Sytek, the chairwoman of the parole board, noted that while in prison Flynn had obtained a college degree, had become a journeymen electrician, and had organized prisoners to give Christmas presents to kids in the community.
“I have not seen such remarkable accomplishments,” she said. “That’s not something we ordinarily see.
Pamela Smart’s lawyer, Mark Sisti, said he agreed with decision to grant Flynn parole.
“But that doesn’t mean the case is any less weird,” he said. “You’ve got a confessed cold-blooded executioner who will walk the streets and a woman who is in prison for the rest of her life who never even saw a firearm. You talk about bizarre. That casts a very strange shadow over the judicial system.”
Eleanor Pam, a spokeswoman for Pamela Smart, took a harsher tack.
“Once again, Bill Flynn has cynically used a winning strategy to get himself a better deal,” she said in a statement. “He paints himself as Pamela Smart’s victim and blames her for acts he himself committed. Successfully playing the innocent virgin, he weeps into his tissues every chance he gets.”
Smart is serving a life sentence at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in New York. She admitted that she seduced Flynn but has steadfastly claimed she didn’t plan her husband’s murder.
When news of the killing first broke in 1990, it garnered little attention, looking merely like a robbery gone bad. A month later, three teenagers — Flynn, Patrick “Pete” Randall, and Vance Lattime — were arrested.
Then authorities announced that Smart’s grieving widow, the pretty, ambitious 22-year-old newlywed Pamela Smart, had been having an affair with Flynn, a Winnacunnet High School sophomore.
Flynn told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in a 1995 interview that Smart made the first move one day after school.
“She was saying, ‘Well, are you going to kiss me?’ and I said, ‘Yeah,’ and she said, ‘Well, do I have to come over there and rape you?’ ” he told Sawyer.
Flynn would testify that Smart told him the only way they could continue to see each other was for Flynn to kill her husband.
From there, prosecutors alleged, the plot unfolded.
On May 1, 1990, Lattime and Randall drove to the Smart home with Flynn and school dropout Raymond Fowler. Pamela Smart was attending a school board meeting. Flynn and Randall surprised Gregory Smart when he arrived home. Flynn killed him with a single pistol shot to the back of the head.
A month later, a teenager living with Lattime’s family overheard Flynn and Lattime discussing the murder and told Lattime’s parents, who told the police.
In August, police charged Pamela Smart with engineering her husband’s murder.
In a plea bargain, Flynn pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and Randall and Lattime pleaded guilty to being accomplices to second degree murder. Flynn and Randall eventually received sentences of 28 years to life; Lattime got 18 years to life.
Fowler was charged with helping to plan the killing, cleaning the gun, and making an earlier attempt on Gregory Smart’s life. He pleaded guilty to murder conspiracy and attempted burglary and was sentenced to 15 to 30 years.
In March 1991, Pamela Smart was convicted of being an accomplice to murder, murder conspiracy, and witness tampering and was sentenced to life without parole. The trial was a media spectacle, with live coverage aired on television — a forerunner to O.J. Simpson’s trial four years later.
The case was the inspiration for the 1995 Gus Van Sant movie “To Die For” starring Nicole Kidman and more recently was chronicled in the HBO documentary “Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart.”
The three other accomplices to the murder have been released from prison over the years. Randall, who was convicted of second-degree murder for holding down the victim with a knife to his throat, was in a minimum security transitional work center as of last year. Lattime, the driver of the getaway car, was released on parole in 2005. And Fowler, who waited in the car alongside Lattime, was paroled in 2003.
At his parole hearing on Thursday, Flynn said he planned to reside in Maine after release and live with his wife, whom he married while in prison.
When a parole board member pressed Flynn on what sorts of challenges he expected to face, he answered: Google.
“The first thing that people will learn about me is the worst thing I’ve ever done,” he said.
The New Hampshire attorney general’s office said it took no position on Flynn’s parole.
Paul Maggiotto, who prosecuted Pam Smart, said Flynn’s parole was evidence that the system works.
“Billy Flynn seems like the kind of person who spent this time in jail rehabbing himself and he clearly showed remorse,” he said.
Sarah Schweitzer can be reached at sarah.schweitzer @globe.com. Follow her on twitter@SarahSchweitzer.