MADISON (WKOW) -- It's been 25 years since a Grant County sheriff's deputy was killed on duty and his murderer is now up for parole.
Around 11:30 p.m. on March 18, 1990, Deputy Tom Reuter came across Gregory Coulthard, 18, driving a tractor on a rural road near Livingston.
"He stopped and he went up to the tractor and was shot with a shot gun," Becky Bloyer tells 27 News.
Bloyer, a former deputy, says she had just gotten home after working her shift when she was called back in to search for her friend's killer. Bloyer's husband Bob, also a deputy, was the first to respond to the scene.
"I felt no pulse, Officer Reuter's body felt cool," Bob Bloyer told a courtroom during Coulthard's murder trial in 1990. "There was snow on the hair on the back of his hand that would not melt. I felt he was dead."
Even 25 years later, many, like Bob Bloyer, still can't talk publicly about their friend's death. Hundreds of law enforcement officers from all over the region came to pay their respects at 39-year-old Reuter's funeral. He is the only Grant County deputy ever killed on duty.
The 25th anniversary of Reuter's death will be even harder for those who knew him, as the man who killed him is up for parole. Gregory Coulthard was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in 1990. At that time, a judge set his eligibility for parole at 25 years. A hearing is scheduled for March 19.
Now, the Bloyers are leading an effort to urge Wisconsin's Parole Commission to deny Coulthard parole. They're asking current and former sheriff's office staff along with other law enforcement agencies and supporters.
"I hope everybody remembers Tom," says Becky Bloyer. "He was a wonderful person and a great friend, he really took his job seriously and was an excellent officer. I just don't think [Coulthard] should be out. I think when you get sentenced to life in prison you should spend life in prison."
Most of Reuter's co-workers are no longer with the sheriff's office, but he still has plenty of support there. Many have stepped up and sent letters and Reuter's memory is kept alive with a plaque outside the office and a tribute inside.
"We're a relatively young department here and there's very few people who are left that were here during this time and the people that are here now are still very much involved in wanting to remember Tom as well as supporting whatever we can do to keep his killer behind bars," says Sheriff Nate Dreckman.
Reuter's son Dan is a deputy at the sheriff's office, and Dreckman says though he never knew Tom Reuter, despite the loss, there's no doubt the department has gained a valuable asset in his son.
Sheriff Dreckman tells 27 News every year, the Sheriff's Office holds a memorial ceremony in Lancaster to honor Deputy Reuter. This year, they want to get some special memorial badges and pins to wear, to mark the 25th anniversary of his death.
As of earlier this week, the Department of Corrections has already gotten nearly 250 emails and letters in this case. A spokesperson tells 27 News a single commissioner took no action at an earlier parole hearing, so the case will move on to the full commission next.
Criminal justice experts say it would be rare for the board to approve parole in a case like this, but emphasize the importance of rehabilitation, especially among young offenders.
"We need to create pathways back to the community that are safe for everyone and recognize that over 5, 10, 20, 30 years.. people do change," says UW-Madison law professor Cecelia Klingele.
The commission could choose to approve parole or deny Coulthard's release until further review. Offenders convicted after 1999 are no longer eligible for parole, based on the state's Truth-in-Sentencing laws, and are generally required to serve the length of time determined at sentencing.