Dying ex-doctor leaves Virginia prison 2 years after pardon for killing his dad

MARION, Va. (AP) — A former North Carolina doctor who was pardoned for killing his father left a Virginia prison for a hospital on Thursday, more than a decade after a doctor began advocating for his release because of a rare brain condition.

Vince Gilmer is in the terminal stages of Huntington's disease, an incurable illness that affects patients’ cognition and physical abilities. It was the basis of Gilmer's conditional pardon from a life sentence two years ago by then-Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

Gilmer admitted to killing his father, whom he accused at trial of sexually abusing him as a child. Supporters argue the trial's outcome would likely have been different if he had been properly diagnosed. They said admission to a treatment center was the more appropriate outcome.

Gilmer left Marion Correctional Treatment Center late Thursday morning, the Virginia Department of Corrections said in a statement. Gilmer's supporters said Tuesday that he would be taken to a hospital for long-term care, which is in line with his pardon terms.

Dr. Benjamin Gilmer is Vince Gilmer's advocate and legal guardian, although the men are not related. He told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Vince Gilmer uses a wheelchair, is losing his cognitive abilities and is at high risk for aspiration pneumonia.

Benjamin Gilmer wrote in his book, “The Other Dr. Gilmer,” that he dug into Vince Gilmer’s case after he joined the family medicine clinic just outside of Asheville, where Vince Gilmer used to work. Patients and former colleagues described Vince Gilmer as a dedicated clinician who cared for patients regardless of their ability to pay.

Benjamin Gilmer eventually contacted Vince Gilmer in prison to try to square his reputation with the horrific crime. His quest was documented by journalist Sarah Koenig, later the host of the popular podcast “Serial,” on an episode of “This American Life” titled “Dr. Gilmer and Mr. Hyde.”