Topeka A former Emporia minister who killed his wife in 1983 and solicited the murder of the husband of his church secretary soon will be a free man.
The Kansas Parole Board on Friday granted parole to Thomas Bird, who has served 20 years of a life sentence for killing his wife, Sandy, while having an affair with his secretary, Lorna Anderson.
Bird hadn't been scheduled for a parole hearing until December, but the board approved a special request to see him Monday after three public comment sessions last month in Topeka.
He was convicted in 1984 of solicitation of first-degree murder for trying to get someone to kill Anderson's husband, Martin Anderson. A year later, Bird was convicted of first-degree murder in his wife's death.
Bird was acquitted in 1990 in Geary County of the first-degree murder of Martin Anderson.
In July 1983, Bird killed his wife, pushed her car over an embankment of a river near Emporia, then placed her body in the car, authorities said.
Bird's story was the focus of a 1987 television miniseries, "Murder Ordained," and a book published in 2000 titled "Caged Bird," which maintained his innocence.
"This is wonderful, praise the Lord. I am so happy," said the Rev. Kenneth Kothe, of Burnsville, Minn. Kothe was a friend of Bird and a classmate at the Concordia Theological Seminary in Springfield, Ill.
Sandy Bird's mother and stepfather, Jane and Jerry Grismer of Little Rock, Ark., said they had no comment.
Bird will be released after his post-release plan has been approved by the parole office in the area where he plans to live, said parole board administrator Colene Fischli.
"He does have some special conditions of parole, but they relate to programming issues, so those are confidential," she said. "He will have to abide by those standard conditions of parole, as well as the conditions imposed by the board regarding any programs and any conditions the parole officer may place on him based on his individual situation."
The board's vote was 2-1. Board chairwoman Marilyn Scafe and vice chairman Larry D. Woodward voted for parole. Paul Feleciano voted against it.
Kothe said while in prison at Lansing Correctional Facility in Lansing, Bird established Bible-study classes and helped establish a halfway house for spouses of inmates.
Lorna Anderson, who now uses her maiden name, Lorna Slater, was convicted of second-degree murder in Geary County District Court and two counts of solicitation of first-degree murder in Lyon County.
In 1983, she and her husband and their children pulled to the side of a highway in Geary County because she complained of feeling ill. She got out of the family's van, dropped her keys and asked her husband to help find them.
Martin Anderson was shot by a masked gunman while looking for the missing keys.
Lorna Anderson was denied parole in 2000.