Former police chief gets out of prison

? A former St. Joseph police chief convicted of fatally shooting his neighbor is out of prison after four years.

James Robert Hayes, 81, was released on parole Dec. 25 from the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, said state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Angie Day.

“I just want to get along with my life and whatever time I have left,” Hayes said. “I have no animosity for anyone.”

Hayes was convicted in 1998 of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the shooting death a year earlier of Tony Coone.

The 11-year police chief, who retired from the department in 1989, said he had never fired his gun during his law-enforcement career. He characterized the shooting as self-defense, claiming Coone had attacked him with a hammer.

Coone, 26, died in a hospital about a month after the shooting.

Hayes was sentenced to 14 years in prison, but the Missouri Court of Appeals ordered a second trial, saying the original jury had received improper instructions.

The second jury convicted Hayes of the same offenses and recommended sentences of two years for involuntary manslaughter and four years for armed criminal action.

Hayes had numerous medical problems during his incarceration. He suffered a heart attack three days after entering prison and had triple bypass surgery. He was denied for a medical parole in December 2002.

In 2003, Hayes unsuccessfully asked then-Gov. Bob Holden for clemency.

Hayes said that since leaving prison on Christmas Day, he has been taking care of business, filling out paperwork and visiting with his wife, who is in the hospital, and his son.

Hayes will remain on parole until August 2008, Day said.