Robb family sees progress in meeting with parole board chief

Gary (center) and Art Gregory (right), brothers of Ellen Robb, with State Rep. Mike Vereb.
Gary (center) and Art Gregory (right), brothers of Ellen Robb, with State Rep. Mike Vereb. (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 24, 2013

HARRISBURG - The brothers of Ellen Robb met Tuesday with the chairman of the state Board of Probation and Parole to try to block the release of their sister's husband, who killed her in a rage in 2006.

After the meeting with Michael Potteiger in the agency's Harrisburg office, Art and Gary Gregory said they were optimistic that the board would reverse its decision to parole Rafael Robb, a former University of Pennsylvania expert in economic game theory, from prison Monday.

The meeting came after Ellen Robb's family, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, and state representatives from Montgomery County expressed surprise at learning that Rafael Robb was to be released. The victim's family had not had a chance to tell the board about its opposition or the community outrage - including from domestic violence groups - over the possibility of Rafael Robb's being released after serving the minimum amount of his prison sentence.

"A couple of weeks ago, our family and friends of Ellen, the community, were in a state of shock," Gary Gregory said at a news conference in the office of State Rep. Mike Vereb (R., Montgomery). "As the representative stated, this is a baby step, but it's a positive step forward, there's no other way to view it. Now it's up to the parole board to review the information, review the facts, and do the right thing. "

In 2007, Rafael Robb pleaded guilty to manslaughter for bludgeoning his wife to death in their Upper Merion Township home soon after she asked him for a divorce. He was sentenced to five to 10 years in prison.

Potteiger said the discussion with Gary and Art Gregory was about the parole process. He called it "a very good meeting."

The information the family has presented to the board through the Office of the Victim Advocate and the District Attorney's Office will be reviewed and given to the decision-makers in this case, Potteiger said.

"We will have an answer by Jan. 28," the chairman said.

The most dramatic demonstration of community outrage came in a letter from retired County Court Judge Paul W. Tressler, who presided over Robb's trial.

"I have never before raised a written objection to this board regarding any inmate, however I am compelled to do so on this occasion," he wrote. "I have been a prosecutor and a judge for almost 40 years, and the attack upon Ellen Robb was the most savage act I have ever encountered, even though done in hot blood."

He called Rafael Robb "a highly manipulative individual." He said he believed that Robb would be a threat to the public and that the board should reconsider.

Vereb said he would introduce a proposal to clarify a conflict between the parole board code and state law.

State law says victims or their representatives are entitled to air their opposition to a criminal's release before the parole board decides. The parole code says that right does not necessarily exist.

Vereb said he would work with a state senator to draft legislation giving victims and their families an unequivocal forum.

Contact Carolyn Davis at, 610-313-8109 or @carolyntweets on Twitter.

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