A New York man convicted of brutally murdering a 16-year-old girl in 1980 was released from prison Monday despite outrage from community members and criticism from the state's former governor.
Richard LaBarbera, 66, walked free 38 years after he began serving a sentence of 25 years to life for the second-degree murder of Paula Bohovesky.
Bohovesky, an honors student, was walking home from her part-time job at the library on Oct. 28, 1980, in Pearl River, a quiet community some 30 miles north of New York City. Police say she was hit in the head with a concrete block, raped twice, strangled and stabbed five times just a block away from her home by LaBarbera and Robert McCain what the local medical examiner described as the most brutal murder he had ever seen.
Both men were given the toughest sentence available at the time and had previously been denied parole every two years since becoming eligible in 2005. However, last month, LaBarbera was granted parole in a hearing with three members of the state’s 12-person parole board while McCain, now 58, was denied parole.
A non-profit organization “Petition for Paula” filed a lawsuit last week in New York Supreme Court along with the victim's mother, Lois Bohovesky, demanding that LaBarbera be given another parole hearing in front of all 12 members and that his scheduled release be delayed because full transcripts of the decisive hearing have not been released. The lawsuit also asked a judge not to allow LaBarbera to go within five counties of Pearl River because the victim's mother still lives there.
The Journal News reported Monday that the state initially intended to release LaBarbera in Peekskill, less than an hour from Pearl River. However, attorneys for Lois Bohovesky convinced the state attorney general's office to reassign the parolee to an office in Buffalo and a judge in Albany ordered LaBarbera to stay at least three counties away from his victim's mother. A July 26 hearing has been scheduled to determine whether the restrictions should be made permanent.
Last month, hundreds of protestors walked silently in the dark, with candles illuminating the same path Bohovesky walked on that fateful night, hoping to inspire New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to intervene in the Parole Board's decision.
Former New York Gov. George Pataki told Fox News last week Cuomo should force the parole board – filled with the governor's appointees – to reconsider its decision to parole LaBarbera.
“The governor can certainly ask the parole board to take another look and to look at the facts, to look at the lack of remorse, and if they did, they would have to see that this man should not be out in the streets,” Pataki said. “I have been very careful about not commenting on state government policies since I left office, but this release of this rapist and murderer is so hideous to me, I really feel an obligation to speak out so that first, hopefully, it won't happen, but if it sadly does, that it won't happen again.”
All of these pleas were to no avail.
Opponents of LaBarbera's release, including Lois Bohovesky, contend he has neither accepted full responsibility nor shown remorse for his crime.
“He [LaBarbera] still hasn’t taken responsibility for the murder,” Bohovesky, 87, told Fox News last month in an exclusive on-camera interview. " ... I don’t think he’s sorry. He’s never accepted responsibility for it, so how can he be sorry?"
Fox News' Cristina Corbin contributed to this report.