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By Jericka Duncan

DOVER, Del. (CBS) — Delaware Gov. Jack Markell has decided to spare the life of a man who was facing execution this week for the 1990 murder of his girlfriend.

“If he was sorry, why did it take him 21 years to say he was sorry?” said Shirley Slay.

The parents of Shirley Slay are not convinced the man who killed their daughter deserves to live.

“She lost her life and didn’t have to, why should he be able to keep his,” said Willie Slay.

In 1990, their 27-year-old daughter, Shirley Slay, was shot between the eyes by her then boyfriend Robert Gattis. Earlier this month Gattis submitted an application for clemency. Gattis was in tears at a hearing last week. The 49-year-old, who was scheduled to be executed this Friday, told the State Board of Pardons to consider the years of severe sexual and physical abuse he says he endured as a child. Those details weren’t released to the original jury that sentenced him to death.

“Mr. Gattis was brutally, sexually molested,” said Gattis’s defense attorney John Deckers.

In a 4-1 decision, the state board of pardons recommended, on Sunday, that his sentence be commuted. Today, Delaware Governor Jack Markell agreed. Gattis will spend life behind bars without parole.

“Right now I’m just thanking God,” said Wanda Lee. “We’re just elated and we thank the Governor.”

While Gattis’s sister is relieved the victim’s family remains hurt and is trying to find peace in knowing their daughter’s killer will die in prison.

“It changed our life, now we don’t have hear every year about the appeals Robert is going to have,” said Slay’s mother.

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