Norristown >> Rafael Robb Will Serve Every Minute Of His 10-Year Manslaughter Sentence For Killing His Wife, Officials Announced At A Bittersweet News Conference Monday Morning.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele was joined by the victim’s brother, Gary Gregory, state Rep. Mike Vereb, and victim/domestic abuse advocates who applauded the parole board’s decision while lamenting that the 10-year sentence is nearing its end.
“We are grateful to the parole board for making the correct decision in the case, and hearing our objection to his parole, as well as the objection of Ellen’s family and many others,” Steele said. “Justice was served by declining the inmate’s request for an early release and keeping Rafael Robb behind bars until next year.”
Robb, a former University of Pennsylvania professor, pleaded guilty in 2007 to voluntary manslaughter for beating his wife, Ellen Gregory Robb, to death in their Upper Merion home. Officials said the victim, who was wrapping Christmas presents, was beaten so badly “it looked like a scene from a horror movie,” said Robert J. Mongeluzzi, Gregory’s attorney.
In what Vereb called “one of the worst deals ever, in the history of the criminal justice system in Pennsylvania,” Robb’s plea deal was attached to a five- to 10-year state prison sentence.
In a 2014 civil trial, a jury awarded the couple’s daughter, Olivia, more than $124 million dollars in punitive damages and for the loss of contributions from Ellen Gregory Robb.
“Rafael Robb incredibly claimed that Ellen provoked him into this horrific slaughter and claimed that it was manslaughter in the spur of the moment. Gary was not pleased with the decision not to proceed to trial,” Mongeluzzi said. “We proved in that courtroom that he intentionally slaughtered her. That he put on a Tyvek suit and a mask, waited for her as she was wrapping Christmas presents and brutally beat her to death.”
Robb was first slated for release Jan. 28, 2013 after serving about five years of his sentence. Public outcry and a request from then-District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman caused the decision to be reversed. Robb is now entering the last year of the maximum 10-year sentence.
The near parole of Robb in 2013 inspired Vereb, R-150, of Montgomery County, to introduce a bill that allowed a victim or representative to give testimony at parole hearings.
“I got to deal with an absolute dirt ball being temporarily under the thought process that he was going to get out of prison,” Vereb said.
Victim advocate Jennifer Storm said the legislation has already allowed more than 4,000 people to testify at state parole board hearings.
“That’s when I get to tell Gary’s story, and I get to tell Ellen’s story. And it’s such a unique legacy that is being left to individuals in Pennsylvania,” Storm said. “It’s going to go on to touch tens of thousands of individuals.”
Vereb said he spoke at the March parole board hearing for Robb’s release. Ellen Gregory Robb’s family has also spoken very publicly against Robb receiving parole.
“Ellen is serving a lifetime sentence, in her grave, and this man must fulfill his entire sentence of what was a ridiculously minimal plea bargained sentence of only 10 years,” Gary Gregory said in a February news conference.
Still, Robb will be released from the State Correctional Institute at Albion in January 2017, as he is nearing the end of his maximum sentence. He will face 10 years of supervised release.
“Our goal is clearly to make sure that his probation terms are of the strictest and tightest as they should be for a violent offender of this nature,” Gregory said. “It has to occur and it must occur.”
As Gregory and his family prepare for Robb’s release, he said that working with organizations such as Laurel House and the foundation set up in Ellen’s name has helped them cope with their loss.
“Once you’re at the end of a line, you know there is nothing else you can do on that front. So the anguish will exist, but the attitude is that we turned this horrific situation into a positive,” Gregory said. “That is comfort and solace as we move forward. But the fact of the matter is that this was a five- to 10-year sentence and it should have been brought forward as a murder trial and he should be serving life in jail.”