Victims’ families decry ‘loophole’ in Mass. state law allowing medical parole for murderers

“The law was on our side. Until this law was not," a family member said


By Stephanie Barry
masslive.com
        
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Some were family members of a woman who 40 years ago was strangled, run over with a car and dumped in a remote area by her ex-boyfriend, who told a friend “she just wouldn’t die.”

Some were family of a 70-year-old man who died in 2004 after his wife stabbed him 34 times. Still others were relatives of a bar owner also stabbed multiple times by a business rival and dumped in a river.

Although the murders of their loved ones spanned three decades, they united Thursday along with Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni to decry what they called a “loophole” in a state law allowing first-degree murderers to apply for medical parole.

Maureen Moriarty speaks as Hampden district Attorney Anthony Gulluni looks on at a press conference where Gulluni called upon the legislature to amend laws regarding medical parole for first-degree murderers.
Maureen Moriarty speaks as Hampden district Attorney Anthony Gulluni looks on at a press conference where Gulluni called upon the legislature to amend laws regarding medical parole for first-degree murderers. (Don Treeger/The Republican)

John Stote, convicted of the murder of Springfield restaurateur John “Jackie” Regan in 1995, has twice won medical parole, most recently in late December. Stote was previously granted medical parole in 2021 after contracting COVID-19 in prison, but the parole was revoked. He was released a second time after he was deemed a COVID “long hauler” suffering from other problems including obesity and back pain.

“The law was on our side. Until this law was not,” said Maureen Regan Moriarty, one of Regan’s children who attended the press conference at Gulluni’s office suite in Tower Square. “He’s unrepentant and he’s not rehabilitated. And he could be the new roommate to any one of our ailing friends or relatives.”

Stote was slated to go to a rehab facility upon his release from prison, but Regan Moriarty, a special needs teacher in Springfield, said her family has no information on his current status or where he may be.

State Department of Correction Commissioner Carol Mici attempted to block Stote’s second release but a judge interceded and forced her hand, ruling Mici’s denial was “arbitrary and capricious” and an “abuse of her discretion.”

Gulluni noted the medical parole provision was part of a sweeping criminal justice reform bill passed in 2018. The county’s top prosecutor said the bill had a worthy impact on the justice system, including eradicating mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and increasing the age for a child to be held “criminally responsible.”

But Gulluni said the bill got it wrong on the medical parole front. Previously, those convicted of first-degree murder were not eligible for medical parole.

Of 47 petitions for medical parole received from Hampden County-based inmates since the law took effect, Gulluni said, 21 were lodged by convicted murderers.

Gulluni added that many of the petitioners had already made habits of filing a seemingly endless string of appeals and court motions that keep victims’ families unnecessarily tethered to grief. There is no cap on how many times inmates can file petitions for medical parole, he said.

“The pain and trauma of their loved ones’ sudden and tragic loss is constant and enduring because of this. The accompanying grief has become their life sentence,” Gulluni said.

Also joining Regan’s family were relatives of Joanne Welch, a West Springfield woman brutally murdered by her boyfriend, Anthony Olszewski, in 1983. He complained to a friend that “she just wouldn’t die” from his repeated attacks, and perished of exposure after he dumped her in the snow.

Olszewski received a second trial after a judge ruled West Springfield police bungled certain aspects of the investigation and lost key evidence. Olszewski was convicted a second time, and lost multiple bids for a third trial.

But he continues to seek early release — twice through medical parole. Both petitions were denied.

“To this day, 40 years later, he continues to attempt to undo justice,” Gulluni said.

Speaking on behalf of the Welch family was former state Sen. James Welch, who said he tried to undo the medical parole provision while he was still in office.

“I was 6 years old when my cousin was murdered. I grew up with this, as did other members of our family,” said Welch. “One of my cousins, I think, described it as generational trauma.”

Also at Thursday’s press conference were relatives of Joseph Brodeur, stabbed 34 times by his wife, Joann Sliech-Brodeur, as the couple quarreled over finances in 2004, according to family friends.

Sliech-Brodeur was also granted a new trial after being convicted of first-degree murder, but in 2010 struck a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. That charge offers the possibility, but not guarantee, of being paroled after 15 years.

Sliech-Brodeur has filed two petitions for early release for medical reasons. Neither has been granted.

Gulluni said he has met with legislators and members of Gov. Charlie Baker’s office to urge support of House Bill 1459, filed by Quincy Democrat Bruce J. Ayers, that would disqualify those convicted of first-degree murder from medical parole.

“The hope is that this needs to happen immediately,” Gulluni said.

©2022 Advance Local Media LLC.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Recommended for you

Copyright © 2022 Corrections1. All rights reserved.