Families of murder victims push back against elderly parole
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Emotions ran high Monday morning as the families of three murder victims gathered in the Monroe County Public Safety Building. With the support of local law enforcement and Republican state legislators, they spoke out against a bill currently in committee.
The bill (S2423) expands parole opportunities for aging inmates. If it passes, any incarcerated person over 55, who has served at least 15 years of their sentence, would be eligible for parole. The 55+ inmate wouldn’t be guaranteed parole itself — just a chance to go before the board and request it.
But for many violent crime victims and their families, they can’t bear to think that their killer, abuser, or rapist has the possibility.
“When I first read this bill, I didn’t believe it,” Republican Senator Pam Helming, who represents Canandaigua, said. “I thought for sure I was missing something there had to be an exception, a carve out for those criminals that are convicted of the most heinous crimes. The most violent crimes. But sadly, there are no exceptions, not for murder, not for brutal rape, not for child abuse. No exceptions.”
Helming held up a thick document containing the names of everyone who would be eligible in Monroe County if the bill passes. One day, that document would include Kelvin Vicker’s name.
Vickers was found guilty of killing Officer Anthony Mazurkiewicz, Richard Collinge III, and Myjel Rand. Monday, Collinge’s mother stood side-by-side to Mazurkiewicz’s family against the bill.
“This person could allegedly be back out on the street by 55,” Officer Mazurkiewicz’s wife, Lynn Mazurkiewicz, said. “My husband didn’t make it to 55. I resent that. Quite a lot actually.”
Lynn said that Vickers had been released from prison in Massachusetts before he killed three men in Rochester. He’d only been out two months when he shot them.
“Violent criminals sentenced to life without parole should never be considered for parole,'” She said. “This bill allows those individuals that exact possibility.”
It would also allow the possibility for Mark Christie to get out. Christie kidnapped and killed 4-year-old Kali Ann Poulton in 1994 in Pittsford. He hid her body for two years before confessing to that and a second murder. Her mother, Judy Tosh, spoke to the media for the first time in years Monday.
“He’s already killed one person, and he killed my daughter,” Tosh said. “And now we’re thinking of letting this person back out. Are you kidding me? How can society think that’s okay. It’s not, it’s wrong. It’s wrong, it’s wrong.”
She said Christie is almost 55, and has been in prison for decades.
“So guess what, he will be eligible to come up for parole,” she said. “I’m not good with that. None of us should be good with that. I have an issue with that. He already gave me a life sentence, to live without her. So therefore, as far as I’m concerned, he should never see the light of day again. He should be incarcerated until they carry him out in a body bag.”
In Albany, the bill has dozens of democratic cosponsors. From the Rochester area, that includes Samra Brouk, Jeremy Cooney, Harry Bronson, and Demond Meeks. Outside of the legislature, other major supporters include the Release the Aging People in Prison Campaign (RAPP).
Two weeks ago, RAPP held an event in Rochester featuring formerly incarcerated individuals who have found meaning outside of prison. Click here to learn more about those individuals and the work they do.