RUPERT — A Paul man serving a life sentence for kidnapping and raping a bar-owner’s wife in 1984 wants a Minidoka County court to let him out of prison, saying he’s done his time.
Melvin Dean Hanks, 74, filed a post-conviction relief proceeding in 2016 with Minidoka County District Court. He was brought to the Mini-Cassia Criminal Justice Center in mid-December so he can attend the court hearings in the case. Now he claims his sentencing judge said he’d get out after 30 years.
A Minidoka County jury convicted Hanks after a five-day trial on charges of first-degree kidnapping, attempted rape, aggravated battery and two counts of a charge called crime against nature for oral and anal rape, court records say.
He was sentenced in October 1984.
Hanks petitioned the court in 1985 for a reduction of his sentence because his life sentence precluded him getting treatment in prison. The request was denied in 1986 by Judge Ronald Bruce, the same judge who sentenced him.
His current request before the court says his sentencing document has a typed note that says the judge said in court that he would serve a fixed-life sentence not to exceed 30 years.
Hanks said he was told the same by his attorney, who said “he’d get out then.”
The sentences on the other charges — 15 years each for rape and aggravated battery and 5 years for each crime against nature — were to run concurrent with the life sentence.
Hanks said in hand-written court documents that the Idaho Department of Correction interprets a fixed life sentence as the natural life of the prisoner.
He wrote on the form that he wants to be let out of prison “immediately, if not sooner.”
Hanks’s public defender wrote that his case is “unusual, but not frivolous.”
According to the 1984 case file, the woman’s husband, who owned a bar in Minidoka County, told police that Hanks had been drunk in the bar that night and made a sexually suggestive comment toward his wife as she left the bar.
The husband said Hanks left immediately after his wife did.
Later, the bar owner found his wife’s car in the road with its lights on and the engine running.
Police stopped Hanks for a traffic violation and questioned the victim, who was still in the car with blood on her clothing and had been obviously beaten.
The woman told police Hanks was flashing his headlights at her as he followed her in his car after she left the bar. She stopped her car thinking it must be her husband, and he yanked her out of her car and forced her into his. In his car he held her down and struck her multiple times.
She said he took her to his home, put duct tape on her eyes and sexually assaulted her.
The woman said he threatened to kill her, and he agreed to drop her off in town if she was nice to him.
He didn’t take the tape off until he forced her back into his car.
At the time of the 1984 crimes, Hanks had two previous felonies, one for forcible rape in 1966 and fourth-degree arson in 1979.
A court trial in the post-conviction relief case is scheduled for March 22 in Minidoka County District Court in front of Judge Jonathan Brody.