ONEONTA — Recollections of the laughter and life of Gillian Gibbons were shared during a rally Saturday, then followed by calls to keep her killer behind bars and to pass legislation for less frequent parole hearings.
“We’re here for ‘Justice for Gillian,’” state Sen. James Seward said at Muller Plaza. “We’re also here to say, ‘No parole for David Dart.’”
About 45 people attended the mid-afternoon rally at the sun-drenched plaza downtown.
Remembrances were shared, along with photos, of Gibbons, who was killed by Dart on Sept. 12, 1989.
Dart, now 50, was convicted of second-degree murder and is scheduled to have a parole hearing in November. He is serving a term of 25 years to life in prison.
Jennifer Kirkpatrick, Gibbons’ older sister, has been raising awareness about the hearing this year and said she worked with Seward to present Saturday’s event.
“Justice for Gillian” in bold letters appeared on signs at the rally, and T-shirts also carried the message. The group stood silently listening to comments and when Kirkpatrick played a recording of “Stairway to Heaven.”
Gibbons, of Milford, was a beautiful, vivacious young woman, speakers said.
“She loved to laugh and have fun,” Kirkpatrick, an Oneonta mother of four, said. “Without her, it’s really hard.”
Kirkpatrick was found her murdered sister in a car in the Oneonta parking garage.
Joseph Redmond, an Oneonta city police sergeant, was among officers first responding to the scene. On Saturday he shared some details of the crime and investigation, and he said tips from the community were key to the investigation and identification of Dart. Redmond said he reminded listeners of their important role.
“It was the citizens, the people like you who helped us catch a murderer,” Redmond said. “Now we’re asking for help again, to write letters to the parole board.”
Dart should never be paroled, Redmond said. Redmond, a former Oneonta police chief who works as an investigator for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in the New York Harbor Health Care System, said he has supported Kirkpatrick’s past and current effort to see Dart’s parole denied.
Dart has had multiple parole hearings.
According to the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, letters in support or opposition to an inmate’s parole board appearance must be sent to the supervising offender rehabilitation coordinator online or at the inmate’s current facility. Letters received the same month as the inmate’s scheduled interview aren’t guaranteed to be available to the board, the DOCCS website said.
In Dart’s case, Seward said letters of opposition for his parole can be sent online to www.doccs.ny.gov/DOCCSwebletterstoboardofparoleform.aspx or by regular mail to Fishkill Correctional Facility, Supervising Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator, 18 Stack Drive, Beacon, NY 12508-0307. Dart’s DIN No. 91B0463 must be included, Seward said.
Seward is urging changes in laws to increase the time between parole hearings, require board members to review victim impact statements and to require a unanimous vote of the parole board to release an inmate.
In a flyer, Seward said that for six consecutive years, the Senate passed legislation he cosponsored to change the period between parole hearing from two years to five years.
The Assembly hasn’t voted on the bill, he said, and the Senate this year didn’t consider the measure.
Kirkpatrick said she and family members will go to Albany this week to meet with a stenographer to make a statement regarding the possibility of parole for Dart. Relatives don’t appear before the full board, she said.
Kirkpatrick said the rally was not only to raise awareness of the Gibbons case but also to change laws for the benefit of families and communities dealing with violent crimes and their painful aftermath.
A CNHI article earlier this year reported that Kirkpatrick and other family members grew more concerned after receiving a letter from Dart, one in which he expresses remorse for the crime.
Kirkpatrick said Dart wrote the letter as a “ploy” to convince the parole board he is a transformed person worthy of being released into the community.
On Saturday, Kirkpatrick said that Dart isn’t remorseful and if released will commit other crimes.
“He’s a psychopath,” she said. “I think he should die behind the bars.”