By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Two convicted killers serving life sentences, including one who gained national attention when he and seven fellow inmates escaped more than 40 years ago from a maximum-security prison near Atmore, were denied parole after recent hearings by the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles.
Gerald William Armitage, born in 1954, has served 44-1/2 years of a life sentence imposed for a 1975 murder conviction in Madison County. He was turned down for parole on August 6 and will apparently serve at least five more years behind bars, as his next parole consideration date is August 1, 2025.
According to New York Times archives, Armitage was one of eight Holman Correctional Facility inmates who performed a daring prison break on May 3, 1978. He eluded authorities for more than two years before he was recaptured and sentenced in 1981 in Escambia County to an additional five years.
Armitage, now housed at Bibb County Correctional Facility in Brent, had another year tacked on to his life sentence after he was convicted of escaping or attempting to escape from an Elmore County prison facility in October 1978.
The other inmate with local ties, who was denied parole on August 12, is Robert Lee Wigham (born 1956), who is currently housed at Fountain Correctional Facility, serving the life sentence he was given for a 1986 murder conviction in Mobile County.
Wigham has been in state custody almost 35 years and will also remain there for at least five more. He will also next be given parole consideration on August 1, 2025.
Wigham was also sentenced in 1986 to 15 years after a Mobile County burglary conviction, and in 1997 he received another 15-year sentence after his conviction for a second-degree assault that was committed while he was at Fountain.
Alabama Department of Corrections records show that Wigham and Armitage were each sentenced to “999 years, 99 months and 99 days” in prison. They were the only two inmates with local ties who were considered for parole during the latest round of hearings.