NEWS

Man convicted of killing wife denied parole

Jessica Pierce

Calling him “narcissistic and self-absorbed,” the state Board of Parole has decided to keep convicted killer Walter Casper III locked up, much to the relief of his late wife’s loved ones.

The board made its decision Tuesday, after meeting with Casper at the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility in Clinton County, where he is being held. Casper and the family of his victim, Cathy Bly-Casper, were informed of the ruling Thursday morning.

“Everybody’s happy with it, but it’s bittersweet,” said Stephen Bly, a brother of Cathy Bly-Casper. “It’s good, yes, but in the next two years he will be out.”

Because his 2000 murder conviction was reduced on appeal last summer to the lesser charge of manslaughter, Casper likely won’t be held beyond 2010. That’s because his sentence of 25 years to life was reduced to five to 15, and under state law, inmates are released after serving two-thirds of their sentence as long as they’ve behaved. Casper has been locked up for almost eight years.

“The whole thing is so wrong,” Stephen Bly said, adding that his family should have been spared the agony of awaiting parole decisions for many more years. “We shouldn’t even be doing this — we’re 17 years early. It’s sickening.”

Casper was convicted of killing his 39-year-old wife by sending her over a cliff at Grimes Glen in Naples in the family minivan in 1999. The couple and their two young sons, Walter IV and Benjamin, had been staying at Casper’s parents’ cottage on Honeoye Lake at the time.

Casper had confessed to police, saying he jumped out of the van, parked strategically where it could go off the ravine, and “ran like a coward,” as it tumbled down.

Prosecutors said he had become obsessed with a woman he had been having an affair with, and wanted his wife “out of the way.”

The three members of the Board of Parole who considered Casper’s release this week expressed concerns, in their decision, with the fact that he made “little reference to those whose lives have been forever impacted” by his actions.

“You have continued to reference your crime as an accident, and actually stated that you don’t know why it happened,” the decision said. “... Your lack of insight is a great concern to this panel and leaves us with little confidence in your ability to lead a law-abiding life.”

At his resentencing in Ontario County Court in January, Casper spoke briefly, referring to his wife’s death as an unforeseen tragedy.

“If there was some way to change that morning and prevent that accident, I would have,” he said, crying and handcuffed. “I am sorry over this whole accident. ... If I could build a stairway to heaven from tears and lost memories, I surely would have.”

Cathy Bly-Casper’s family, including her sons, siblings and parents, met privately with the Board of Parole at its office in Rochester several weeks ago. They spoke of the pain they have endured and expressed their outrage over the reduced conviction.

While prison inmates typically become eligible for parole every two years or so, Casper will once again appear before the Board of Parole to make his case for release next month. That’s because, under his reduced sentence, he would have become first eligible three years ago. The second parole hearing is to compensate for that.

Gregory Bly, another of Cathy Bly Casper’s brothers, said, “We pray for the same outcome.”

Ontario County District Attorney R. Michael Tantillo said, “Obviously, I share everyone else’ satisfaction at the ruling, but I have to say it’s not unexpected.”

He and prosecutors across the state are hoping the state Legislature will consider changes to current laws to put teeth back into the charge of second-degree murder or the creation of a new class of homicide laws to remedy the fact that convictions are being overturned on appeal.

Casper is one of dozens across the state who have either had their murder convictions reduced or dropped because the appellate judges have felt that the type of second-degree murder — “depraved indifference to human life” — was not fitting with the evidence of the crime.

In many of the cases, including some in Monroe County, the judges have held that  the evidence was more fitting for the other type of second-degree murder, intentional.

Several area lawmakers have vowed to support a legislative remedy. Sen. Joe Robach, R-Greece, in fact, had helped Cathy Bly-Casper’s loved ones in a petition drive to keep Casper locked up.

“The bottom line is, for now, they made a good decision and everybody needs to be thanked — family, friends and the thousands of people out there that signed that petition,” Stephen Bly said.

He said “every day counts” that his former brother-in-law is locked up: “He shouldn’t be free, ever, ever, ever.”

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