RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – A Wilkes County man who spent 30 years in prison for a series of sex crimes against children will be paroled from his life sentence next month.

The North Carolina Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission approved the release of Leonard D. Cynor through its Mutual Agreement Parole Program, which is a scholastic and vocational process that is completed and reviewed in a three-way agreement among the commission, the Division of Prisons and the offender.

Leonard D. Cynor (NCDP)

The commission also announced it was beginning an investigation for possible parole under the same program for German Grace, who was convicted in Guilford County Superior Court on Aug. 20, 1993, of first-degree murder for shooting a pizza delivery agent in the head during a robbery.

North Carolina abolished parole in cases involving murder and rape as of Oct. 1, 1994, and the commission is charged with considering the parole for offenders who were sentenced under guidelines before that date. The commission sometimes seeks public comment on whether that parole should be granted.

German “Jermaine” Grace ( NCDP)

Cynor, 54, was convicted in Wilkes County Superior Court on Nov. 12, 1992, for first-degree sexual offense, sex offense by a substitute parent and indecent liberties with a child. The crimes occurred on Jan. 31, 1991, and the three charges were merged for sentencing.

He is scheduled to be released on March 6 after having completed all the requirements of MAPP.

Cynor had no prior record of incarceration as an adult, and searches did not reveal details of the crimes for which he was convicted. That’s not unusual in sexual charges involving children.

But on May 28, 2015, Cynor filed suit in federal court against Jeffery Lassiter – his original suit called him “Jo” – the state’s correctional enterprise manager, after Cynor received second- and third-degree burns during an industrial accident at a cannery where he and other inmates were working.

Cynor had argued that the defendants violated his constitutional rights by creating an unsafe work environment and didn’t provide proper training, which led to the burns while items were being cooked for canning.

The suit says Cynor “received immediate medical treatment for his injuries” at Caledonia Correctional Institution and then at Halifax Regional Hospital. He also was treated at the University of North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill.

But on Aug. 29, 2017, U.S. District Judge Louise W. Flanagan granted a motion for summary judgment by Lassiter and dismissed all claims without prejudice, meaning Cynor could refile.

Grace’s case

Grace, 49, who sometimes has gone by “Jermaine,” was 19 on Aug. 20, 1993, when he was convicted of felony murder for his role in the death of a pizza delivery agent in High Point, the News & Record reported.

Kevin Hodgin, 35, lay a few feet from the Domino’s Pizza on Kirkwood Street when Grace shot him three times, twice in the head, with a gun that had been stolen five days earlier from the home of a High Point police officer, the jury was told.

Grace testified he was playing cards at the time of the killing, but four witnesses who were charged with the robbery said it was Grace who pulled the trigger because they were looking for someone to rob. They split the $117 Hodgin was carrying, meaning each got about $20.

Because jurors found Grace guilty under the felony murder act, meaning the death occurred while another crime was being committed, they were suggesting they didn’t think his act was premeditated. He avoided the death penalty.

But Grace’s murder conviction was combined for sentencing with prior crimes for which he had been on parole and probation.

On April 4, 1991, he was convicted in Guilford County and given probation as a youthful offender on an 8-year sentence for felony breaking and entering and for stealing more than $200 on Nov. 8, 1990.

He again was given probation on Aug. 2, 1991, on a 2-year sentence for assaulting a police officer on Feb. 15, 1991, and again on Aug. 7, 1991, on a 2-year sentence from July 10, 1991, for assault with a deadly weapon and assault and battery. All those probations were revoked, and their sentences were served concurrent to the murder conviction.

On Sept. 8, 1995, Grace appealed the murder conviction to the North Carolina Supreme Court on the basis of a biased witness, a failure by prosecutors to connect possession of the murder weapon to Grace and the content of several questions asked of potential jurors. The court denied all three arguments.

The MAPP program

To be part of the MAPP program, an inmate must show a desire to improve educational and training programs and a self-improvement process. There is a 3-year walk-up to release that, the MAPP website states, requires the inmate:

  • To be in medium or minimum custody.
  • Not to be subject to a detainer or pending court action that could result in further confinement.
  • To be infraction-free for a period of 90 days before being recommended.
  • If sentenced under the Fair Sentencing Act, to be eligible for 270-day parole or community-service parole.

The program also stipulates that “there should be a recognizable need on the part of the inmate for involvement in the MAPP program and the inmate should express a desire to participate in improving educational achievements, learning skills, personal growth programs and modifying specific behavior.”

Cynor, currently housed at the Scotland Correctional Institute in Laurinburg, has seven reported infractions, none since 2010. After a first charge of fighting in 1994, nothing significant was reported.

Grace, currently housed at the Davidson Correctional Institute in Lexington, has 40 reported infractions, none since 2017 and most of them before 2005. Those offenses include six for “sexual act” and a couple for “fighting.”

If you have questions or want to comment on Grace’s potential parole, you can contact the commission at 919- 716–3010.