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Man freed after serving 40 years of a life sentence for robbing Bob’s Taco Hut with a squirt gun

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A man has been granted parole after receiving a life sentence four decades ago for robbing an Arkansas store – with a plastic water gun.

The squirt gun robber, Rolf Kaestel, aged 70, got hit with a life sentence for robbing Senor Bob’s Taco Hut for $264 back in 1981. No one was hurt in the robbery, nor was there even a physical altercation or scuffle of any sort, yet he was still behind bars 40 years later for Aggravated Robbery.

Under Arkansas state law, life sentences aren’t eligible for parole unless the governor commutes their sentence. In 2015, Governor Asa Hutchinson denied Kaestel’s appeal, which meant he had to wait four more years to apply again. Hutchinson and his predecessor, Mike Beebe, together received a total of three prior recommendations from the parole board for a commutation of Kaestel’s sentence followed by parole but they were denied.

In July, however, Hutchinson announced his “intent to commute”  Kaestel’s sentence with the press release noting that there were “no law enforcement objections” to the planned grant.

Those who called for clemency for Kaestel aren’t the usual crowd of prisoner advocates. The former prosecutor for the case isn’t even interested in keeping him locked up, and the victim, former cashier Dennis Schlutterman, released an emotional video in 2014 on YouTube pleading for his release:

“I actually apologized to him because I felt like even though he was the one that robbed me, I felt like I had taken his life because he had been in there for so long.”

“It’s not right, is all I want people to know and, if possible, to stand up and support us to help him get out. His life’s running out. His time is running out. God, give him a little bit of something. It wasn’t that bad of a crime to be doing that kind of time,” Schlutterman said in an interview with The Daily Beast.

Kaestel hasn’t had any family to advocate for him, and his only visitor for the past 22 years has been Colby Frazier, a former reporter for the Salt Lake City Weekly. Frazier described Kaestel as “invisible to those who put him there and a mystery of sorts to those who store him,” in reference to prison officials responsible for keeping Kaestel locked up, even if they themselves don’t seem to really know why.

Now, however, 40 years later, all those efforts finally came to fruition, and Kaestel’s parole was approved on September 21st, a spokeswoman from the Arkansas Parole Board said, according to the New York Post. His exact date for release has not been made public, however.

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