T he relatives of murder victim Sandra Olrich have become a family on a mission. Not only are they trying to keep her killer in prison, they're also want to change the parole system. They feel a parole hearing every two years is too short for certain violent felony offenders.
Before visiting the Victim Assistance Center in Syracuse, Olrich's niece, Jessica Ward told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon "I'm hoping they can see the pain my family has gone through and continues to go through and the fear we have."
On A ugust 5th 1982 , 20 year old Sandra Olrich was brutally murdered inside her Jamesville home. She had been repeatedly stabbed and beaten by her brother-in-law, Howard Marnell. He pleaded guilty to the crime and was sentenced to 15 years to life. Since 1998, Marnell has appeared before a parole board every two years. He's now 52 years old. After being denied eight times, Marnell was granted parole was was due to be released earlier this month.
Upon hearing that parole had been granted, his victim's family intervened and succeeded in having the parole board reconsider its decision in May. On Friday Olrich family members met with the State Office of Victim Assistance to file victim statements in hopes of convincing the parole board to reverse its decision.
Prior to the meeting, t he family told reporters they are calling for procedural changes in the way parole is handled in New York State. They feel criminals convicted of certain types of violent crimes should get a parole hearing every 5 years instead of two. They also say a parole board should unanimously agree to release a convicted killer to the community.
Among those calling for these changes is Howard Marnell's own brother, Patrick. "it's really a broken system." he said.
Coincidentally just before the Olrich family met with reporters, Chad Thornton showed up to express support for their cause. Thornton's mother was murdered by his own brother Clair Thornton in 1993 at the family home in Homer in Cortland County. Like Howard Marnell, Clair Thornton served 15 years and has been eligible parole. So every two years, like the Olrich family, Chad Thornton has to go to the Victim Assistance Center to send a victim statement to his brother's parole board to keep him behind bars.
Chad Thornton feels its unfair that victims must relive their pain every two years. "I know we've got to go on with our lives but I think this is a hard procedure. It should change. It should be longer. It's very hard."