Dingman: 'I try to be a better person'
CONCORD — Jeffrey A. Dingman was an eighth grader at Rochester Middle School in 1996 when he and his older brother, Robert, shot their parents, Eve and Vance Dingman, to death in one of the state's most brutal teen crimes.
He has since spent more than half his life in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire prisons. He's never owned a cell phone, opened a bank account, doesn't know how to drive, used a debit card or rented an apartment. His cooking is limited to canned and dry food.
Only 14 when he killed Eve and Vance Dingman, Dingman never learned these basic life skills.
Now the tall, lean 31-year-old in the slightly large grey suit, stood before the state's Adult Parole Board Thursday asking to be freed from prison when he becomes eligible for parole in two months.
Concerned he lacks the skills to handle the strains of daily life on his own — the three-member board granted Dingman tentative parole that requires he remain in the Calumet halfway house in Manchester until he successfully completes his parole plan.
"Because your crime was a particularly horrible one, we want to know (something about) what's changed inside of you," Adult Parole Board Chairman Donna Sytek asked Dingman.
"I'm weighing my decisions more. I don't just act. I try to be a better person," Dingman replied during the 30-minute hearing held at New Hampshire State Prison for Men.
Board member Mark E. Furlone pressed Dingman on his psychological and emotional well being, questioning whether he received trauma counseling.
"No, not really," Dingman replied.
Furlone, a retired state trooper, read aloud Dingman's recent written answer to why he went to prison.
"'I was convicted of second-degree murder for my involvement in my parents' murders.'" Furlone read. "It's pretty flat to me. It doesn't sound like a lot of ownership to me. You didn't say 'I killed my parents.' You said I was convicted..." Furlone said.
"I take responsibility," Dingman interrupted.
"I guess you have to develop walls around yourself or some emotional zeroing of your life to survive," Furlone continued. "That's what concerns the three of us,...I just don't want to throw you out there cold."
The board required Dingman to get professional counseling and undergo an evaluation, get help in learning how to budget, bank, rent an apartment and other life skills, and develop a more substantial relationship with his mother's sister, Elizabeth Landry, and her husband, Maurice, both of whom support their nephew's release on parole.
The parole board said they didn't know how long it would take Dingman to meet these conditions, but said it likely wouldn't be done before Feb. 7, the day he completes his minimum 18-year sentence and becomes eligible for parole.
Elizabeth Landry said she and her husband, who so far have only communicated in writing, agreed to take Dingman out to the movies and other social and recreational events.
"From the bottom of our hearts, we forgive him and we want to give him a second chance," Landry of Greenfield said.
"I have a clear memory of the cry of pain that came from him" on the day of his arrest in early February 1996, she continued. Dingman, she recounted, wondered "who could I have told and been believed?"
Dingman returned to New Hampshire State Prison in Concord in 2011 and has been living at the Calumet halfway house since July 25 where he walks 40 minutes each way to his job at a Manchester shop. He has saved $1,500 and hopes to rent an apartment closer to work once released on parole, his attorney Mark Stevens of Salem said.
Dingman told the board his goal has been "staying out of trouble and trying to get myself prepared to move forward."
Dingman declined to speak with the media after the hearing. But his attorney said he "was grateful for the opportunity to be listened to and to know that the board heard him."
"He will do whatever is ordered to do," Stevens said.
Dingman pleaded guilty in 1997 to two counts of second-degree murder for the Feb. 9, 1996, shooting his parents to death in a plea deal with the state. In exchange, he agreed to testify against his older brother, Robert, then 17, at trial.
Robert Dingman, 35, was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and has been serving life in prison without possibility of parole at the Concord prison.