Parole was denied Monday for one of two former roommates who set a fire in a dormitory that killed three Seton Hall University students in 2000.

Joseph LePore will be eligible to ask for parole again in 18 months. The board also was to decide the parole application of Sean Ryan later in the day.

The former roommates, both 27, have been incarcerated at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility in Yardville since last February.

They pleaded guilty on the eve of their murder trial in November 2006 and received five-year sentences. If convicted at trial, they would have faced at least 30 years in prison.

The men admitted setting a banner on fire in a lounge in Boland Hall early on the morning of Jan. 19, 2000. Smoke eventually spread throughout the six-story building.

Three freshmen died and dozens of other students were injured, some of them seriously burned. The fire led New Jersey to enact the nation's first law requiring sprinklers in college dorms and boarding schools.

Joseph Karol, whose son, Aaron, was one of three students killed, and other victims' family members have said they don't feel LePore and Ryan have ever fully accepted responsibility for the fire.

"Apparently the parole board members were able to judge these individuals for the cowards that they are and made the determination that they need to spend more time in prison," Karol said Monday.

The parole board received "hundreds of letters," many from friends and family of the three victims, all of whom were 18. It also received letters in support of LePore and Ryan, according to board spokesman Neal Buccino.

LePore's attorney, Salvatore Alfano, criticized the board for "ignoring the law" and being swayed by letters from people affected by the fire. He said he planned to appeal the decision.

Monday's hearings were not open to the public.

"We're certainly pleased and have a great sense of relief," Karol said of LePore having to remain in prison. "But I don't see any cause for joy or celebration. It's not going to bring back our son or Frank [Caltabilota] and John [Giunta] or heal any wounds that were suffered."