: Bergen County Executive Kathleen A. Donovan today added her voice to the growing number of those calling on the New Jersey State Parole Board to
keep the man who raped and killed a New Milford girl more than 35 years ago behind bars.
PHOTO: Courtesy of the Montelaro Family
She also urged those who haven’t done so to write to the board to deny Christopher Righetti’s bid.
Righetti, who had committed a previous rape, abducted Kim Montelaro from the parking lot of the Paramus Park Mall in August 1976. He took the 20-year-old honor student to a wooded area, where he raped her and stabbed her six times in the chest.
“I ask that the New Jersey State Parole Board deny this man parole, not just for the pain of the Montelaro family, but the safety of all of Bergen County’s families,” Donovan wrote, in a letter to the Parole Board.
“I ask this not just as the Bergen County Executive who is responsible for the safety of thousands and thousands of hardworking Bergen County residents,” she added, “but as a mother.
“I cannot imagine the pain the Montelaro family has had to endure in the last three decades, and I am writing this to help prevent their further pain from Righetti’s release.”
The Montelaros were shocked to receive word on Feb. 22 that Righetti is again eligible for parole in June instead of in 2022, as they’d originally believed — all because of awful timing. CLIFFVIEW PILOT published a story within hours of that notice.
“It’s like a penalty to us. We have to relive this whole nightmare all over again,” Anthony Montelaro told CLIFFVIEW PILOT that afternoon.
He had just gotten off the phone with a state Parole Board representative who said the panel in denying Righetti, now 52, another hearing for 144 months, according to a n Appellate Division ruling.
A controversial law that had gone into effect two months before the board’s decision became official required that “in no case shall any parole eligibility date scheduled pursuant to this subsection be more than three years following the date on which an inmate was denied release.”
As a result, the appeals judges overturned the term length.
The tragic irony for the Montelaros is that a three-member Parole Board panel imposed the 144-month period for Righetti on June 30, 2010, but the decision wasn’t officially adopted by the full board until Nov. 17 — two months after the new law went into effect.
Adding insult to injury, the state Legislature, led by Schroeder and state Senators Paul Sarlo and Loretta Weinberg, repealed the three-year maximum last year. Gov. Christie then signed the measure into law, blaming its early-release predecessor for two murders charged to former inmates let out of prison months ahead of schedule.
“From a public policy and public safety point of view, the statutory early-release law was a disaster,”Christie said, in restoring more discretion to the Parole Board to determine an inmate’s parole eligibility, rather than being required to review each case every three years.
Bob Schroeder gives support letters to Paul, Alice, Anthony Montelaro in 2009 (CLIFFVIEW PILOT photo / EXCLUSIVE)
It was less than three years ago that Anthony and Alice Montelaro, both in their 70s, came up with their son from Florida, in what turned into a successful but very stressful bid to keep Righetti behind bars at Northern State Prison in Newark.
They were supported by members of a grass-roots group then known as Keep Bergen Safe, organized by then-Washington Township Councilman Bob Schroeder, now a New Jersey state Assemblyman.
The group — now known as KeepNJSafe.org — brought the board nearly 1,100 e-mailed and handwritten letters opposing Righetti’s release.
Alumni from Immaculate Heart Academy “shared their stories of what a wonderful girl Kim Montelaro was, and how much she has been missed,” Schroeder said at the time .
“Parents expressed their fears for the safety of their own children if Righetti were to be released. Others wrote in to share their personal and harrowing memories of Christopher Righetti, and how scary it was when he lived in our community,” he added.
All were pleased when the Board agreed not to allow Righetti another shot for 12 years. But he appealed.
The appeals judges ruled that the Board, in addition to ignoring the new law, “did not give adequate weight to mitigating factors applicable to his case, such as his participation in behavior-specific institutional programs, above-average institutional reports, and favorable institutional adjustment, and thus was unreasonably long.”
Washington Township Police Chief Randy Ciocco, New Milford Chief Frank Papapietro with Alice Montelaro
They directed the board to give “appropriate consideration to those mitigating factors” during Righetti’s next hearing.
This creates the distinct possibility that Righetti could be released after the 36 months is up later this year.
Montelaro, who is awaiting official written confirmation, said he was told that this next parole hearing, Righetti’s fourth since he was sentenced, “probably won’t be until late spring or early summer.”
“My plan, God willing, is to come up there, go before the board and talk to them again,” the angry father told CLIFFVIEW PILOT early this afternoon.
He has already filed an OPRA request for all records regarding Righetti’s conduct in prison.
TO OPPOSE RIGHETTI’S RELEASE, WRITE TO:
DEADLINE (set by the Parole Board): April 5
Righetti (Courtesy NJDOC)
The Righetti saga
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