Azure Wakefield Davis had no trouble finding the right words to capture her feelings about the news that the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole has rescinded the release date for the man who molested her more than two decades ago.
“Yay!” she said. “I am so happy that they took us serious and we got our voices heard.”
The board confirmed Wednesday that it has rescinded the Nov. 26 release date for Michael Doporto and set a rehearing for May 1, 2016. The board notified Davis and other victims, as well as Dopoorto’s family, Tuesday evening of the decision.
“I was worried sick they were going to let him out,” said Davis, 32, who now lives in another state. “We will be ready for the parole hearing and make sure he doesn’t get out.”
The board said Doporto, 64, must be placed in a prison-based, 18-month-long sex offender program by next summer and be evaluated before his next hearing.
Davis was 7 years old when Doporto abused her during a sleepover at his home with his daughter. She kept silent about the attack for four years. Other victims spoke out as police investigated the case, but the statute of limitations had passed for most of them.
Doporto, formerly of East Carbon, was convicted in December 1993 of first-degree felony sodomy for abusing Davis and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. But in 1997 the Utah Supreme Court overturned that conviction because a judge allowed other victims to testify during the trial.
After Doporto was released from prison, new allegations emerged. He was resentenced in 1999 in one case to up to 15 years in prison; in two other cases, which were consolidated, he was sentenced to a term of 10 years to life.
Following a hearing in August 2010, the pardons board set a parole date.
But Traci Wakefield, Davis’ mother, started an online petition this summer challenging the board’s decision, which she and other victims said had been made without allowing them to be heard. In response, the board held a victim impact hearing on Oct. 10.
“I had to do it,” Wakefield said. “First and foremost, as a mother of a daughter who had gone through this and suffered for years and years at the hands of him and for all the other young girls that needed support and needed someone to speak for them.”
Wakefield said she was elated that the board held the victim impact hearing, but was still doubtful it would make a difference.
“I feel this is ground-breaking for other victims that want to come forward and haven’t been able to until they were older and felt strong enough,” she said. “We are going to continue to reach out to them.”
At the hearing, Davis and four other victims described how Doporto’s actions had stolen their innocence and haunted them, causing psychological and physical problems that continue to cause them difficulties. Davis told Doporto that her life was forever changed and begged the board to not free him, thereby putting more children at risk.
“That was the very first time I talked to him since I was about seven about how I felt and what I went through,” said Davis, who at age 18 attended Doporto’s first hearing, but was emotionally unable to speak.
“I am 32 years old now. I had enough courage to confront my monster,” she said. “Even though he didn’t acknowledge me and speak to me, I got to speak my words.”
Doporto read a statement at the October hearing but addressed his remarks only to one victim. At his 2010 hearing, Doporto acknowledged molesting at least seven girls, two listed in court cases and five other reported victims, but denied there were more. Wakefield and other victim’s families dispute that.
In its decision, the board said Doporto must, as part of his treatment, “fully address all victims and victimization, whether the victim is a victim of record or not, including all currently identified victims and any other victim of which the board is not yet aware.”
Tennille MacLean, 38, was one of the victims Doporto did not recognize at last month’s hearing. On Wednesday, MacLean said she couldn’t believe the board listened to her and other victims and offered thanks for the support and prayers of family, friends, strangers and other victims “when I needed you the most.”
“I am going to keep fighting for everybody that has been involved,” MacLean said. “I just want him to be in prison for the rest of his life. He has to stay in there because he is going to ruin more people’s lives.”