Among the victims who suffer the most in Illinois are the family members of those murdered by “C Number” Prisoners.
These are the cases under an “indeterminate” sentence, the cases remaining from prior to Feb. 1978 when Illinois moved to determinate sentencing. The victims families of these few remaining cases (most have long since been paroled) have to face annual or tri-annual nightmares of constant re-opening of old wounds and re-engagement with the offender.
Crime Victims United of Illinois strongly supports legal remedies to reduce, if not eliminate, the need for these victims families to continually have to fight the release of these offenders. The laws did not exist prior to 1978 to allow them to be sentenced to life. But they were all given sentences of up to hundreds of years in prison, clearly intending them to serve life sentences for their brutal crimes.
Also Illinois law has some very specific criteria only by which they may be voted for release by the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. The 250 or so remaining C number prisoners have failed for over 30 years to meet these release criteria. We are doubtful that most of them would ever, at this late date, be able to suddenly meet those release criteria. There are a very few cases that are even still controversial.
Victims Families Deserve Legal Finality
Yet offender advocates such as the John Howard Association push for a certain percentage of C number cases to be released each year, seemingly in defiance of the requirements to meet release criteria. We believe they are incorrect in expecting a steady flow of C number releases each year. With the number of cases having dwindled down to only a few that have failed to meet release criteria for over three decades, we believe that soon C number releases will cease altogether, bringing much needed relief to the constantly re-traumatized victims families, who have had to devote so much time and energy each year to constantly re-fighting these cases. These families have been literally tortured, some into the second and third generations of their murdered family members, and they deserve legal finality.
Bill Heirens has come up for parole frequently and is denied every time because of bad behavior in prison. And the victim’s family has had to spend their entire lives dealing with this man because of it. Life without parole for the worst offenders must mean LWOP. http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/illinois-prisons-budget-elderly-old-inmates/Content?oid=3013140
Patty Columbo and Frank DeLuca
March 2, 2011
Every couple of years, we’re forced to revisit the horror of May 4, 1976 — the day Patricia Columbo and her lover murdered her parents and her 13-year-old brother in Elk Grove Village. Columbo’s father was shot four times and bludgeoned with a lamp. Her mother was shot once between the eyes, and her throat was slit. Her brother was shot once and stabbed repeatedly with scissors. All three were found with what looked like cigarette burns on their bodies. Columbo and Frank De Luca both got 200 to 300 years in prison. They began their sentences in September 1977. Go ahead, do the math. Then think about this: Patricia Columbo is preparing to ask the Illinois Prisoner Review Board to let her out. It will be her 17th try. We suppose we should be encouraged that the answer has been no. Or rather: no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. It’s maddening that Columbo was eligible for parole after serving only eight years, but the board wisely and repeatedly denied her request. On her last three attempts, though, two board members voted yes, cracking open the door that could lead to her release. The board must slam it shut. Columbo and De Luca weren’t eligible for the death penalty because of fortuitous timing: The state’s capital punishment law had been ruled unconstitutional, and lawmakers didn’t pass a new one until 1978. But when supporters of the death penalty talk about wanting to preserve that option for the most heinous crimes, they’re talking about cases like this one. Columbo was 19 at the time of the murders; De Luca was 39, married, with five children. Columbo’s father wasn’t happy about the relationship, and he’d made that clear by knocking out De Luca’s front teeth with the butt of a rifle, according to trial testimony. Two witnesses testified that Columbo agreed to pay them — sex now, cash later — to kill her parents. For five months, they strung her along. They met for trysts, and she provided a floor plan of the home and photos of her family, promising to pay them from her parents’ estate. Columbo and De Luca grew impatient and did the job themselves, prosecutors said. A jury agreed. We’ve had a lot to say about capital punishment lately, and we’ll say it again: Illinois’ system is irreparably broken. Weighing the desire to punish the worst of the worst against the very real risk of executing an innocent person, it’s clear the death penalty must be abolished. Gov. Pat Quinn is considering a bill that would do just that. He should sign it. But crimes like Columbo’s make that a tough decision. They call for harsh — and unwavering — punishment. Her case is among the last under the state’s old parole system, under which prisoners were sentenced to a range of time and allowed to petition for early release. But her sentence, effectively, was life in prison: Nobody expected her to do 200-plus years, only to die trying. Every year or two, though, she’s back before the board, arguing that she’s a different woman. In her 1987 bid, she admitted for the first time that she’d committed the murders. In 1991, she said she’d found “some redemption” by working in an inmate literacy program. “To try and express the regret, I wouldn’t know where to begin,” she said in 2006. Those statements were countered by witnesses like Thomas Epach, who represented the Cook County state’s attorney’s office in 1991, when the board heard Columbo’s fifth request. “We feel strongly that her sentence is just beginning,” he said, calling the murders “the hat trick of evil.” Recalling the gruesome crimes, board member John Stenson, a former Peoria police chief, argued against parole in 2006. “They weren’t only murdered, they were overkilled,” he said of the victims. But Columbo and her lawyers continue to press her case. She’s a model inmate who’s written for the prison newspaper, earned her GED, tutored other prisoners, blah blah blah. None of that comes close to justifying her release. Ever. We’re glad to hear she’s sorry. It suggests she understands why she’s in prison, and why she should stay there.