He Seeks Parole For 1964 Crime

Posted: May 19, 1987

Jack Lopinson, convicted 22 years ago of hiring a hit man to murder his wife and business partner in one of the most sensational crimes in Philadelphia history, is trying for the fourth time to have his life sentence commuted to parole.

Lopinson, a restaurateur, was 27 in 1964 when he hired Frank "Birdman" Phelan for $10,000 to murder his wife, Judith, and business partner, Joseph Malito. Lopinson, 50, is still behind bars.

Lopinson tried unsuccessfully to have his two concurrent life sentences commuted to life on parole in 1977, 1978 and 1980. Each time, his plea was rejected by the state Board of Pardons, said board secretary David S. Bayne.

The five-member pardons board, chaired by Lt. Gov. Mark S. Singel, will hold a public hearing on Lopinson's request May 28.

Lopinson hired Phelan to murder his wife and Malito in the basement of Dante's, a Chestnut Street restaurant and bar co-owned by Lopinson and Malito, trial testimony showed.

After Phelan shot Judith and Malito, he shot Lopinson once in the leg to make it appear as if Lopinson, his wife and Malito were attacked by robbers, the testimony indicated.

Phelan's testimony helped send himself and Lopinson to death row. Their sentences were changed to life after the U.S. Supreme Court abolished capital punishment in 1972.

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