Brian L. Davis, of Wichita Falls, Texas, was sentenced in October 1995 to serve up to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.
Davis told authorities he strangled Baack, 22, his former roommate, during an argument in her Le Mars apartment on Dec. 13, 1992.
Davis' request to be released from prison was granted Jan. 25, according to Jason Carlstrom, Iowa Board of Parole chairman.
Baack's family didn't expect Davis to be released from prison yet, said her sister, Chris Harms.
"I was at a loss, I could not believe it," Harms said of the parole board's decision.
Harms and another sister, Beth Williams, watched Davis' Iowa Board of Parole hearing through a two-way video system on the state's fiber optic network.
The parole board asked Davis what happened on Dec. 13, 1992 and asked, if they granted parole, what type of difference he would make or what type of impact he would have, Harms said.
"Once they got done firing all the questions at him, then I was able to speak and say what I wanted and Beth followed after I did," Harms said.
She was the last person to see Julie before she disappeared.
Harms talked about the day of her sister's death during in the parole board hearing.
"I left him alone with her, he murdered her that day and I have to live with that for the rest of my life because I questioned whether I should have ever left (her apartment)," Harms said she told the board.
Other members of Baack's family submitted letters to the parole board, pictures of their sister and a recent photograph of the marker for her grave.
She was buried in Le Mars more than three years after she was reported missing.
Her remains were found on Dec. 29, 1995, in the Loess Hills, northeast of Onawa.
When he pled guilty to causing Baack's death, Davis said he and another person buried her body in a shallow grave in the Loess Hills.
Numerous searches were made for Julie Baack after she was reported missing.
The searches included law enforcement and several groups of volunteers.
A grand jury was convened.
A person authorities never identified by name provided information about the crime.
The person was described as an accomplice to Davis after Baack's death and was given immunity from prosecution by Plymouth County Attorney John Beekman, authorities said.
The case was the first investigation where the Le Mars Police Department worked with DNA evidence, according to Stuart Dekkenga, police chief.
Davis was located in Texas and brought back to Plymouth County after he was indicted on a charge of first-degree murder by the grand jury in July 1999.
He was sentenced to serve up to 50 years in prison in October 1995 after pleading guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder.
Baack's remains were found approximately two months later in the Loess Hills by two Iowa Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officers on routine patrol, said Plymouth County Sheriff Mike Van Otterloo in December 1995.
Members of Baack's family have followed Davis' custody status by registering as victims of a crime, but were still surprised by the parole, Harms said.
"I know they had looked at him going on a work release program, but to go from that to actual parole in this short amount of time, none of us expected anything of that sort," she said.
Davis is being paroled to the state of Kansas, according to the Iowa Board of Parole chairman in an email interview.
Davis submitted a plan to be paroled from the North Central Correctional Facility, in Rockwell City.
The plan is part of a process to leave the prison system known as re-entry, according to Carlstrom.
Davis will be released from a state prison if, and when, all the elements of his re-entry plans are completed, verified and approved, Carlstrom said.
"It is an out-of-state parole so the receiving state will also have to accept him," he said.
Baack's family members can't understand the decision, Harms said.
"I guess the main thing we're all questioning right now is how does a person get sentenced to 50 years in prison and serve just barely over a third of it?" she asked.
Carlstrom said Iowa's sentencing laws provide for a reduction of prison sentences by a little more than half for "earned time."
"The total adjusted sentence is 45.5 percent of the sentence actually imposed," he explained. "In other words, a 50-year sentence is 'adjusted' to about 22 years and almost nine months."
Davis has been incarcerated for approximately 17.5 years, Carlstrom said.
Between 2003 and 2011, the average duration of time people have served for crimes such as Davis' conviction ranged from 15.7 years to 18.65 years, according to Iowa Department of Corrections statistics.
When Davis leaves Iowa's prison system, he will be restricted to parole in Kansas.
He is also barred from having contact with victims of his crime, such as Julie Baack's family members, Carlstrom said.
Restrictions of his parole depend "a little" on the receiving state (Kansas), according to the Iowa Board of Parole chairman.
Some of the conditions will include remaining in the county of residence unless travel is approved by his parole officer and he cannot use controlled substances.
Davis will also have restrictions on his employment and where he can live, Carlstrom said.
"Parole supervision is invasive by its design," he said.
For Julie's sister, the restrictions on Davis' parole aren't the issue -- the length of time Davis has served in prison is the issue.
"He deserved more than 50 years," Harms said.