Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- A family fighting to keep a convicted murderer in prison is making sure their story is part of Howard Marnell’s next parole review.
"This last time they did not have any of our statements present when they reviewed him for parole," said Cindy Bishop, the sister of murder victim Sandra Olrich. "It is our understanding that they didn't even have all the facts of the murder.”
Sandra Olrich was killed by her brother-in-law 30 years ago in her home in Jamesville. Police say Howard Marnell became outraged when she rejected his sexual advances.
Marnell had been sentenced to 15-years to Life in prison. He served 30 years, with parole denied eight times. Olrich's family had offered statements to the Office of Victim's Assistance in the past and insist they were told the comments would remain on record so they did not need to return every two years when parole was reviewed.
They were surprised to get letters in the mail earlier this year announcing Marnell's scheduled release in mid-April.
"We want the parole board to know that the system isn't working. That the way they approach parole should be revisited,” said Sandra’s sister Lorrie Tily.
The decision sparked a large petition drive, letters from Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick and State Senator Dave Valesky, arguing that Marnell misled commissioners. In particular, Fitzpatrick said Marnell never suggested he was on drugs at the the time of the murder when he was arrested. Marnell told parole commissioners his behavior has improved now that he is no longer on drugs and has matured.
Commissioners said his good behavior in prison supported his release. But, the decision was temporarily suspended as opposition grew. Marnell's daughter and brother joined the victim's sisters and mother in publicly opposing his release.
"This was a two-to one vote. So, one person is telling me, they don't trust putting this person back on the street. That does not make me feel good. A particular crime, of this nature, it should be a unanimous vote to release these people back in the community,” Marnell’s brother Patrick Marnell said.
Olrich's family was told a new review is scheduled in May, giving them a chance to offer updated victim impact statements.
Friday, they submitted statements to the office of Victim's Assistance. By law, they are not allowed to attend parole hearings -- a rule they hope to change.
"We want them to see the emotion. We want them to see the pain. This is something we've lived with for 30 years. This is something that never goes away,” Tily continued.
"For him to be able to go before the parole board without us being able to have that same right is just a travesty, said Bishop. "We need outrage. We need somebody to be mad enough, to care enough to make a difference.”
Marnell has parole hearings every two years. Olrich’s family wants serious convictions reviewed every five years, so families don’t have to relive the pain so often. They’ll keep pushing lawmakers for changes.
"I've tried to move on and have a normal life, even though it is hard to do that knowing that your father was a murderer," said Jessica Ward, Marnell's biological daughter. "So I am hoping that they can really see the pain that my family has gone through and continues to go through, and the fear that we have."
The family has created a Facebook page
to update their efforts.