The protests of a murder victim's family revealed that the Pennsylvania State Parole Board may have broken the law by refusing to let Ellen Gregory Robb's family appear before the board to protest her killer's release.
Dr. Rafael Robb bludgeoning his wife to death as she was wrapping Christmas gifts in 2006. He did it because she was about to leave him and the former University of Pennsylvania professor did not want to go through a costly divorce.
Robb pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a minimum of five years in prison, and a maximum of 10.
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When he came up for parole after serving five years, the victim's family said they asked repeatedly to come and speak to the Parole Board, but were denied each time. Dr. Robb was granted parole and is expected to be freed on January 28.
State Representative Mike Vereb was interested in changing the law to give families of victims more rights. He said that is when he discovered that Pennsylvania already has a law that allows them access to the board.
"We don't think they [the Parole Board] followed existing law, so we saw that as a fatal flaw in this process," Vereb said. "This family's rights were violated."
The Parole Board denied breaking the law in a statement. But the Chairman of the Parole Board, Michael Potteiger, has agreed to meet with Gregory's family next week. Gregory said they hope to convince Potteiger to keep Dr. Robb behind bars.
"That someone who's committed the most brutal murder in the history of Montgomery County...would be paroled after serving only five years is unfathomable to the family, to the friends of Ellen and to the domestic violence community," the victim's brother, Gary Gregory said.
Here's the Parole Board's full statement:
Victim input is a very important consideration of the Board and we work closely with the victim advocates office to ensure that victims’ rights are met. Our procedures regarding victim input into the parole process comply with the law. The Crime Victims Act states that victim testimony can be provided before the board or a hearing examiner. The Parole Code assigns this duty to the hearing examiner and outlines procedures for this process, which the Board follows.
To clarify the process about notification, it is important to know that the Parole Code states that the Board is to notify the victim, but the system is set up so that the Office of Victim advocate does the notifications. The OVA is responsible for representing the interests of crime victims befor the Board and Department of Corrections. Victim notification occurs prior to the parole interview and, if parole is denied, then the victim is notified of the parole refusal and when the next parole interview will occur.