A former New York governor on Wednesday demanded his successor, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, intervene in the controversial decision by the state parole board to release a man convicted of brutally killing a 16-year-old girl decades ago.
Former Gov. George Pataki called the recent decision to grant Richard LaBarbera parole a “gross injustice” and said Cuomo “should urge the parole board to reverse this horrible decision.”
LaBarbera, 66, was convicted in 1981 of second-degree murder in the killing of Paula Bohovesky, who was beaten, sexually assaulted and stabbed to death as she walked home from a library in the quiet hamlet of Pearl River, N.Y., 30 miles north of New York City.
LaBarbera and another man, Robert McCain, were sentenced to 25 years to life for the 1980 murder – the toughest sentence at that time. Last month, a parole board of Cuomo appointees informed the family that LaBarbera will be released in July – a move that shocked victim advocates, state lawmakers and a town that has never healed from the savage murder of Bohovesky, an honor student, aspiring actress and gifted artist. McCain, 58, is set to go before the same parole board this week.
“Granting parole to Richard LaBarbera for the brutal murder of this young girl is an outrage,” Pataki said Tuesday in a statement to Fox News.
“Having a vicious murderer like this who has shown no remorse out on the street should never happen in New York State,” he said. “This decision should be reversed.”
Only three states – Maryland, Oklahoma and California – allow governors to reverse a parole board’s decision. But, Pataki and others, including state lawmakers and Bohovesky’s family, said Cuomo should pressure the parole board to reconsider its decision.
“If Governor Cuomo can do anything, please for God’s sake, reverse the decision,” the girl’s mother, Lois Bohovesky, told Fox News in an interview from her Pearl River home earlier this month.
“The medical examiner said he’d never seen so brutal an attack,” Bohovesky said. “Neither one of them has shown any remorse and neither one of them has accepted responsibility.”
She added, “What’s to stop them from doing it again?”
A request for comment from Cuomo’s office was not immediately returned on Wednesday.
In a statement to Fox News, Thomas Mailey, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, said: “The New York State Board of Parole, as the sole entity that considers and determines parole eligibility, is an independent body whose members were confirmed by the State Senate.”
Mailey also said: “By law, before making a final decision, the Board members must follow statutory requirements which take into consideration many factors, including statements made by victims and victims’ families, as well as an individual’s criminal history, institutional accomplishments, potential to successfully reintegrate into the community, and perceived danger to public safety.”
The details of Bohovesky’s murder were brutal.
Shortly after 7 p.m. on Oct. 28, 1980, the girl left her part-time job at the Pearl River library and walked through the center of town toward her home on Hunt Street. The teen was within one block of her parents’ house when LaBarbera and McCain – both of whom had been drinking at the High Wheeler bar nearby – noticed her crossing an intersection. McCain quickly caught up to Bohovesky and crushed the right side of her skull with a chunk of pavement he grabbed from the ground. He then dragged her behind an abandoned home and sexually assaulted her, while LaBarbera watched, according to police.
Believing that Bohovesky was dead, LaBarbera then tried to sexually assault the child, investigators said. When she stirred, to his surprise, LaBarbera stabbed her with a knife five times in the back, killing her, police told Fox News.
In its decision, the parole board wrote: “The panel considered the brutality of your instant offense, where you and your co-defendant beat and stabbed your 16-year-old female victim.”
The board also wrote, “During your interview, you expressed what appeared to be sincere remorse and your overall record reflects not only low (risk to the community) but maturity over the almost 39 years of incarceration.”
The Bohovesky case has sparked a larger debate on prison reform. Many Republican lawmakers have claimed the state was determined to lower the prison population and, in doing so, has adopted a system putting the criminal before the victim.
Many in Pearl River, meanwhile, said they will not stop fighting to keep Bohovesky’s killers in prison for a crime that changed their town forever.
Abigail Bohovesky, the victim’s only niece, has launched a “Say Something” campaign urging Cuomo to weigh in on the parole board’s decision. This coming Saturday, a candlelight vigil and silent protest is to be held in the streets of Pearl River – blocks from where Bohovesky died.
“I was at my friend Katie’s house when Lois, Paula’s mom, came running in and asked if anyone had seen Paula,” said Patricia Stark, a former of classmate of Bohovesky.
“I will never forget the look on her face – one of panic and terror,” Stark told Fox News. “It’s been emblazoned in my mind. As a mother now, I know what she must have been thinking and feeling. It was sheer horror.”
She continued, “To think that you can murder a child in such a heinous and evil way and get out one day and see freedom is outrageous.”