LITTLE ROCK — The state Parole Board on Wednesday recommended against clemency for a former Fort Smith police officer convicted of killing his estranged wife 38 years ago.

LITTLE ROCK — The state Parole Board on Wednesday recommended against clemency for a former Fort Smith police officer convicted of killing his estranged wife 38 years ago.

The board recommended that Gov. Mike Beebe deny 61-year-old Bill Nelson II’s request for a commutation of his life sentence. Nelson was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1973 shooting death of Virginia Sue Nelson.

Bill Nelson was 22 when he shot his wife, 21, with a rifle at a Fort Smith apartment complex in front of family and friends at a party she was hosting.

A graduate of Southside High School in Fort Smith, Nelson had served as a police officer but was released in 1972 before completing the Fort Smith Police Department’s probationary period.

At Nelson’s trial in Sebastian County Circuit Court, a physician for the defense testified that he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. A psychiatrist from the state hospital disputed that finding, testifying that Nelson was “as capable of controlling his actions as any angry young man.”

In 1994, Nelson walked away from a furlough and was on the run for 45 days. While he was at large he contacted the Times Record newspaper in Fort Smith several times to rebut the claim that he was armed and dangerous.

“I could be armed, but I don’t want to be,” Nelson told the newspaper at the time.

Nelson also said that as an ex-police officer, “I would have a lot of trouble shooting a cop.”

Nelson, an inmate of the state Department of Correction’s Tucker unit, has made several previous unsuccessful attempts to get his sentence commuted. In his latest application for clemency he said he believes former Govs. Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee denied his past applications out of concern for their political aspirations.

He also said he did not know the rifle was cocked and primed when it went off and that his trial was “a sham.”

Nelson told the board that while in prison he has taken anger management classes and has become an experienced farm equipment mechanic. He wrote that he is “not a threat to anyone.”

Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck and Sebastian County Prosecutor Daniel Shue opposed Nelson’s request. Shue said in a letter to the board that Nelson is a threat to others and noted that he has been disciplined numerous times in prison for violations such as escape, assault, counterfeiting, destroying state property and being insolent to staff members.

The board said it recommended against clemency because of the nature and seriousness of the offense, because the sentence was not excessive and because of the objections from Hollenbeck and Shue.