Pa. lawmaker proposes bill to clear up confusion over parole board

Ellen Gregory Robb was beaten to death during Christmas 2006.
Ellen Gregory Robb was beaten to death during Christmas 2006.
Posted: March 07, 2013

Relatives and friends of Ellen Gregory Robb were astonished when they learned that her killer - her husband - was about to get out of prison.

When they sought to raise their objections with the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, however, they had a hard time getting an audience.

Spurred by their experience, State Rep. Mike Vereb (R., Montgomery) is proposing legislation designed to clear up confusion and give crime victims and other interested parties the ability to talk directly to board members.

Vereb plans to introduce the bill Wednesday morning, followed by an announcement in Norristown, where he will be joined by Montgomery County and state officials.

"What had occurred was that the Crime Victims Act and the parole code were taking people down two separate tracks," Vereb said Tuesday. The confusion allowed the board to come up with its own interpretation limiting in-person meetings.

Vereb and others have been working on legislation since January, when officials and Robb's family were surprised to learn that ex-University of Pennsylvania professor Rafael Robb, 62, was about to be paroled after serving a minimum of his five to 10 years' sentence for the 2006 death of his wife, Ellen.

Family members received less than two weeks' notice, they said, before the Jan. 28 date the parole board approved for Robb to be released from a Mercer County prison.

A board letter to Robb explaining its decision to parole him cited his "positive institutional behavior," participation in programs, a recommendation from the Department of Corrections, and an "acceptance of responsibility" for his crime.

In 2011, the board denied Robb parole based partly on misconduct and for showing no remorse.

The victim's brothers, Vereb, retired Judge Paul W. Tressler (who presided over Robb's trial), and others immediately mounted a campaign to have the board reverse itself - and allow the Gregory brothers to make that case in person to board members.

The board said the state parole code did not give victims' relatives the right to have face-to-face meetings with board members.

Finally, the day before the board rescinded its decision to parole Robb, the brothers met with Michael C. Potteiger, chairman of the Board of Probation and Parole.

Vereb's legislation, which already has 53 cosponsors, would change language in the Pennsylvania Crime Victims Act to entitle victims or their representatives to talk to parole board members before decisions are made, or communicate their concerns via other channels.

Robb pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2007 for killing his wife as she wrapped Christmas gifts in their Upper Merion home.


Contact Carolyn Davis

at 610-313-8109 or cdavis@phillynews.com,

or follow on Twitter @carolyntweets.

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