By Bobeth Yates

SUNRISE (CBSMiami) — The man Sunrise police says confessed to the murder of Erika Verdecia, whose body was found in a canal after being missing for three weeks, had a checkered past including another murder and now that victim’s family is speaking out.

“There’s no way he should be out, he was suppose to stay in there for at least 35 years of his prison sentence,” said Crystal Grimstead, the sister of murder victim Kristina Whitaker, referring to 54-year-old Eric Pierson. Pierson was convicted of killing her sister and is the same person Sunrise police say confessed to the murder of Erika Verdecia.

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Erika went missing back on September 24th. Her body was discovered in a canal over the weekend but 28 years ago, Pierson committed another gruesome murder, the strangling of Grimstead’s sister Kristina.

“My sister was a beautiful 17-year-old who had so much life ahead of her, had a future ahead of her and now we go through all this pain from all the memories that come up and they let him out so he can put another family through all this,” added Grimstead.

Pierson was given 40 years for Kristina’s murder, but only served about half of the sentence.

Attorney Ignacio Alvarez with ALGO Law Firm says prior to that, Pierson had a previous attempted murder conviction.

“Mr. Pierson had been convicted already for attempted murder, served only 4 out of the 18 years and within one year of being released he killed Kristina Whitaker, added Alvarez.

A statement by the Florida Department of Corrections said Pierson was not released early and instead released at the expiration of his sentence, on September 3, 2020, in compliance with the laws governing gain time and release dates at the time his crime was committed.

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Alvarez says at the time Pierson was sentenced, the laws requiring prisoners to serve 85% of their sentences did not exist.

“He was convicted in 1993, the new law did not take affect until 1995 and you cannot go backwards, added Alvarez.

As for Grimstead, she says if Pierson’s first and second releases didn’t happen, her sister Kristina and Erica would be alive today..

“We cannot protect our kids and our family if our justice system isn’t helping us protect us either,” said Grimstead.

The ironic part of this situation Whitaker’s mother helped to push for longer prison sentences. The state changed the laws so that convicts would have to serve 85% of their prison sentence, but that change could not be applied retroactively for Pierson.

Erika Verdecia leaves behind a 6-year-old daughter.

Her family is asking for help and have set up a GoFundMe page.

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A vigil is being planned in the coming days.