Bill Lorance was released from a California prison on October 5 after serving 22 years.
Lorance was found guilty of first-degree murder in 1999 for the killing of his stepfather.
He credits his release to his relationship with his family, including with his daughter, Justine.
For more than two decades, Justine Tuckett’s father was a photo on the refrigerator. He was a voice on the other end of the phone. He was a letter in the mail and a supervised visit.
When she was just five years old, her dad, William Lorance, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the 1999 murder of his stepfather.
“I was hopeless in the beginning,” Lorance, now 56, told Insider in an interview two weeks after his October 5 release from prison. “I didn’t believe I would be seeing the parole board for 25 years.”
But Lorance would get a chance to go before the board exactly 22 years to the week he was sentenced. The meeting, which was before two parole board commissioners and lasted about two hours and 15 minutes, was “intense,” Lorance said.
Lorance, who goes by Bill, was convicted of first-degree murder for bludgeoning 62-year-old James Morgan to death with a hammer, according to a January 2000 report from the Los Angeles Times.
Lorance confessed to the killing and said he had planned to kill his mother when he devised the plan four days prior to April 1999, according to the LA Times report.
A downward spiral
Lorance said substance abuse issues began and high school and continued until he was 28 when his daughter, Tuckett, was born and he spent time at an in-patient treatment facility.
He was free of drugs and alcohol from 1993 to 1997, he said. But, he and his then-wife were no longer getting along. She gave him an ultimatum: seek counseling to deal with his temper or leave.
“My wife said that I was angry all the time and that I needed to take anger management. And I proved I was angry. I yelled and screamed and stomped my feet. And I told her I wouldn’t do it,” Lorance said.
“On that day, I literally packed my clothes and I left and I never came back to my wife or my children in that house,” he added.
Three months later, he began drinking again.
“And in the 18 months that followed, I isolated myself from my friends and family. I drank myself into blackouts and oblivion,” Lorance said.
He was also using drugs, including Methamphetamine. Lorance said he was at the time suicidal and homicidal.
“I became depressed because I was financially supporting my family,” he added. “And I was in denial that any of this was my fault. I was blaming her for everything. I was wallowing in self-pity, and I became hopeless. I didn’t see a future for myself.”
One day, his mother and his stepfather told Lorance he would no longer be allowed to show up at their home unannounced because of his “lifestyle,” he claimed.
This was the “final straw.”
Lorance said he “overreacted” and now feels “so ashamed that I wasn’t able to rationalize with myself and stop myself in my fit of rage,” he told Insider.
After killing his stepfather, Lorance said he got in his van and planned to drive from California to Oregon to “say goodbye” to his father. But when he got off of the highway at the Disneyland exit in Anaheim, he stopped at a 7-Eleven where he saw police officers in the parking lot.
He decided to turn himself in, he said.
Tuckett said she was too young to recall details from that time. She said she was shielded from her parents’ marital problems and had little memory of the incident.
She recalled “two men in suits” showing up at her home days after the murder.
“I don’t even remember what they said, but it was something along the lines of ‘your dad did something pretty bad and you’re not gonna see him for a long time,'” she said. “I don’t think I really comprehended anything that was going on or what he had done.”
Tuckett, now a married mother, said years passed before she finally learned what her father had done
Lorance and Tuckett’s mother divorced while he was incarcerated. But Lorance and his mother remained close and talked frequently until she died in 2018, Tuckett said.
“My mom didn’t really tell me until I was old enough to really like understand,” Tuckett said. “So in the beginning I just went off of the love and the feeling that my mom and my grandma had for my dad and just continued that relationship with him and went and visited (him in prison).”
Growing up, Tuckett said she at times felt ashamed that her father was incarcerated and said she worried that her classmates would find out. She would tell classmates that her parents had divorced but said she’d avoid mentioning her dad was incarcerated.
Tuckett recalled driving through the desert with her grandma to see Lorance behind bars. She remembered the “weirdness and uncomfortableness” of the prison visitation rooms.
“And as a kid, it became normal – having to go through a metal detector and having them make sure you don’t have weapons on the bottoms of your shoes,” she said.
Lorance recalled a time when Tuckett was around 12 years old and prison guards made her change clothes because they thought her dress was too short.
“They’re very strict about what you wear and some of it would be a little ridiculous,” Tuckett recalled, laughing.
Tuckett said her dad would draw pictures for her, hiding her name within the drawings so she could find it. They’d discuss their favorite TV shows, including the latest episodes of “Saturday Night Live” and “Dancing With the Stars.”
As she grew older, they’d talk about his work translating books into braille or helping train dogs. Lorance “was really good about keeping it positive” when discussing his time behind bars, Tucket said.
“He was never like, ‘oh, this person got stabbed today,'” she said.
A ‘turnaround’ moment in prison led Lorance to get clean and sober
“As I got into like high school and college, I just got to a point where I felt like I needed to just be true to like myself and my story,” she said. “I personally knew that my dad was a good person through all the years that we had our relationship over the phone and letters.”
Lorance credits his close relationship with his kids: Tuckett, and her brother Jonathan, now 31, for his decision to improve his life while incarcerated.
“I can say that in the beginning in prison I was hopeless,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d ever get out and see the real world again. I didn’t have the right mindset, and I continued to abuse prison alcohol, and occasionally drugs, in prison.”
When prison officials in 2013 discovered his prohibited paraphernalia, Lorance said he knew he needed to make changes and decided to get sober.
“I have to do this for myself,” he said. “And for all the people who love and support me, because if I continue down this path, I will never see the light of day in the real world. And that was my turnaround. I’ve been clean and sober since then.”
Strong family support is “almost essential” for formerly incarcerated people, David Harding, the faculty director of the Social Sciences Data Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, has researched prisoner reentry told Insider.
“What we really saw was the only people who were really able to get onto a kind of longer-term upward trajectory were the ones who had a lot of family support that gave them time to adjust before they had to provide for themselves or take on a provider role for anybody else,” he said.
Released prisoners who did not have material, emotional, or social support from their families “had very difficult lives,” Harding added.
Even after Lorance put in work towards his release, he said he was nervous when it came time for him to go before the parole board earlier this year. He’d attended years’ worth of classes on anger management, domestic violence, victim awareness, substance abuse, and mental health. He said he avoided getting involved in prison fights because he knew it would pose roadblocks to the potential for release.
“I had to answer the questions to the best of what I had learned and show who I was at the time of my crime and who I am now,” Lorance said. “Some people get butterflies speaking in front of large groups. This is like that. I had so much stress and tension. And the morning of, I was terrified to appear before the parole board – just terrified.”
‘I am outside the electric fence and I can walk anywhere I want to’
“Me and my brother kind of had a conversation about how we never felt like it was real,” Tuckett said. “It didn’t feel real because for so long we had been waiting for this thing to happen. When he called us and we found out that he was going to get out, it was just overwhelmingly beautiful, and exciting, and happy, and so many feelings.
She said it didn’t feel real until he got into her car.
For Lorance, getting out of prison was “the equivalent of going to Disneyland for the first time as a six-year-old kid.”
“I just had this awe and wonderment. I am outside the electric fence and I can walk anywhere I want to,” he added.
Neither expected what happened next. The father-daughter duo became the subject of viral TikTok videos. On October 16, Tuckett, a dance fitness instructor in Utah, recorded a video of her and her dad dancing in a parking lot. The on-screen caption explained she’d recently him up from prison after two decades.
Every Birthday I would blow out my candle and wish for my Dad to get out of prison. I did this untill I was old enough to realized a candle wouldn’t bring him back to me. He had to change. And he did, he did the work, he changed, and now he’s here 💕 And we couldn’t be happier. ##prisontiktok
♬ original sound – justinetuckett
The video has since racked up more than 18.5 million views. Subsequent videos posted to Tuckett’s TikTok have also earned millions of views, including one video of Lorance trying Red Bull for the first time and another of him swimming for the first time in two decades.
Lorance said he’d first heard of TikTok on the news in prison
“I didn’t know what the reach of it was like,” he said about the social media platform.
Lorance has gained more than 71,000 TikTok followers since she posted the video of her and her dad dancing, which was the first video she ever uploaded on the platform. His daughter also went from roughly 200 Instagram followers to more than 53,000.
“The wildest thing to me has been the personal messages that I’ve been receiving,” Tuckett said. “I have about probably like a hundred a day from people who share their stories and just tell me how grateful they are that we posted.”
Looking toward the future, Lorance hopes to once again get a job in road construction and continue his work transcribing braille. He said he also plans to volunteer in men’s support groups, substance abuse meetings, and victim awareness meetings.
“There are people that people who terrible things and can be reformed and get out,” Lorance said. “I am going to, for the rest of my life, do whatever I can to promote the message that there are lifestyles and habits and beliefs and morals that if you live those, you are on a slippery slope to incarceration.
“And then once you get in there, you have some choices to make,” he added.
Read the original article on Insider