'Mudman' Blatantly Violated His Parole He Partied With Warlocks, Got "Colors" And A Harley. And He Went Undetected.

Posted: May 23, 1995

On Feb. 18, paroled murderer Robert "Mudman" Simon left Graterford Prison after 20 years. With him went a sheet of written conditions for remaining free: no alcohol, and no association with the Warlocks, his old motorcycle gang.

Just outside the prison gate, New Jersey law-enforcement sources say, Simon was picked up by Charles "Shovel" Staples, vice president of the South Jersey chapter of the Warlocks. He moved into a trailer park in Williamstown, N.J., an area law-enforcement officials have long associated with Warlocks activity. He decorated his home with Warlocks paraphernalia. Wore his Warlocks ''colors."

He acquired a stolen Harley Davidson motorcycle and told neighbors he needed it to ride with the gang. He lived on and off with a biker woman. He hung out constantly with Staples. He was seen drinking in bars with other Warlocks.

This all took place under the nose of the New Jersey Bureau of Parole, which had accepted responsibility for monitoring Simon's behavior and making sure he was abiding by the conditions of his parole.

Had parole officials been aware of Simon's infractions, they could have shipped him straight back to Graterford. Yet they contend they knew nothing - until Simon and Staples were arrested May 6 and charged with murdering Franklin Township police Sgt. Ippolito "Lee" Gonzalez, who had pulled their car over.

In Pennsylvania, Simon's release by parole officials has generated outrage for a number of reasons: his long history of violence, his poor prison record, his lack of repentance, and a strongly written warning from a Carbon County judge that Simon was likely to kill again.

In New Jersey - where officials had agreed to supervise Simon's parole - the questions are different. Why was Simon allowed into the state? How could he so blatantly violate the conditions of his parole and go undetected? Why did it take a murder for anyone to notice?

The New Jersey State Police, the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office, the

Monroe Township police and the New Jersey Department of Corrections have all launched investigations into various facets of the case.

Interviews with law-enforcement sources, with Simon's landlady and with others suggest that parole officials could easily have seen daily violations of Simon's parole.

Instead, they were oblivious.

"At this point in time, it is premature and inappropriate for me to comment," said Pat Mulcahy, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Corrections Department.

She said that her department was in the middle of an internal investigation of the supervision procedures in the Simon case - and that she would not comment until the investigation was completed.

Attempts to interview Victor Battiata, the Vineland-based parole officer in charge of Simon's case, were unsuccessful. Department of Corrections officials said they would not permit him to comment.

Simon's landlady, Marianne Mihalick, said she knew nothing of his violent past when she agreed to lease him a trailer. She didn't know that of the 20 years Simon served, the last 12 1/2 were for fatally shooting a young woman who refused to have sex with other Warlocks members.

"No one ever told us he was a killer," Mihalick said. "I had the impression he was this elderly man who had been in (prison) for drugs."

The source of her information?

None other than Staples, who first approached Mihalick in August to seek housing for his Warlocks buddy.

Mihalick, whose 27-acre RV Trailer Park doubles as a horse farm, rents her single-width homes for $300 to $400 a month, utilities included. She wasn't totally naive: She knew Staples, and knew he was a Warlock.

"We used to shoot pool with Staples," she said.

Bikers didn't bother her. She and her late husband once owned a motorcycle shop in Mount Ephraim, she said, where they encountered members of the rival Warlock and Pagan gangs.

After his initial visit in August, Staples did not return until October, Mihalick said, when he told her that Simon's parole was nearing.

In December, Mihalick said, Pennsylvania parole officials contacted her by mail. She filled out a form agreeing to give Simon, 43, a place to live and a part-time job as a handyman.

Within days, Battiata, the New Jersey parole officer, came to check on the trailer park. It became his responsibility to monitor Simon's conduct, state officials say.

The parole officer seemed aware of Simon's Warlock past, Mihalick said.

"Battiata asked me if I thought Mr. Simon would renounce the Warlocks," Mihalick said. "I told him nobody renounces the Warlocks. Once a Warlock, always a Warlock."

Neither Pennsylvania nor New Jersey officials told her that Simon was a killer, Mihalick said. Had she known, she would have refused him lodging.

"As far as being a Warlock, that didn't bother us," Mihalick said. "But a murderer, that was something else."

Simon had been sentenced to 10 to 20 years for the murder. He served 12 1/2 years. Before that, he did time for armed robbery and other crimes.

Pennsylvania officials do inform employers, landlords and local police of an inmate's background when an in-state parole is involved, said Darlene Zelazny, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania parole board. But when an inmate is released to another state, that responsibility is assumed by the receiving state, she said.

Mulcahy, whose department oversees the parole process in New Jersey, said it was "inappropriate" to comment for this story. In addition, she said, a report on the Simon case that Gov. Whitman had asked the Corrections Department to put together - and that was expected to be delivered last week - had been delayed indefinitely.

"We'll give it to her whenever it's complete," Mulcahy said.

*

In the 11 weeks between Simon's parole and his arrest on murder charges, state records show that he met three times with Battiata. Each time, the parole officer reported no infractions by Simon.

Others who had a close look at Simon's life during his 11 weeks of freedom say that he got out of prison and immediately stepped back into the world of bikers, a world he had tightly embraced before being imprisoned for the last two decades.

Less than a week after being paroled, Simon partied and drank late into the night with other Warlocks at an Atlantic County tavern, said his former attorney, A. Charles Peruto Jr. He was dressed in full Warlock "colors," Peruto recalled.

At home, Simon at first stayed close to his trailer, Mihalick said, walking in small circles like an uncaged animal still adjusting to freedom. Soon he ventured far enough to feed a horse or pet some dogs. She described him as polite and well-mannered.

Soon a dark-haired woman called Gypsy, whom police describe as a Warlocks associate, started stopping by Simon's trailer, Mihalick said. Tenants remember her well, she added: Gypsy sometimes came to the trailer door naked.

Simon acquired a used Harley-Davidson motorcycle about a week into his parole. Two men delivered the bike, Mihalick said, and Simon kept it in a bathhouse at the park.

Simon often was seen polishing parts from the bike outside his trailer. He told neighbors he was fixing it up so he could ride with the Warlocks, she said.

Police confiscated the motorcycle after Simon's arrest. Investigators say it had been reported stolen in Pennsylvania. Parts of the bike were recovered

from Simon's trailer.

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