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A convicted rapist, who killed two women during a bloody robbery more than four decades ago, was paroled despite admitting he'd been motivated by a hatred for women during a hearing with corrections officials.
Sam Ayala spent 43 years in prison on a number of charges, including murder, rape, burglary, robbery, grand larceny, criminal possession of weapons and stolen property and criminal mischief following a violent home invasion in the 1970s. He was granted parole following a July hearing, according to the New York Post.
In 1977, Ayala, along with two accomplices, burst into Sheila Watson’s home during a burglary attempt, The New York Times reported at the time. Watson and Bonnie Minter were raped and shot 11 times in the back during the robbery. A number of children were present during the slayings.
“I was a young man,” Ayala said during a parole hearing on July 20, according to documents obtained by the New York Post. “I got to the point that I didn’t like women for the reason that I was treated when I was a young kid, especially by my mother, when I was 12 years old.”
Ayala was 26 at the time. In his parole hearing, he acknowledged he had harbored a long-standing vendetta against women but also expressed remorse for his actions.
“I know that day at the house I exploded, I wanted to get revenge for the way I was treated when I was a kid,” he recalled, the Post reported. “That still don’t give me the right to commit this horrible crime that I committed, taking it out on innocent people. … I participate on the rape, I participate on the murder, and I participate with taking the property from the home.”
“More sorry for the children who endured this crime, right?” Tara Agostini, a commissioner for the state Parole Board responded, according to transcripts of the parole hearing.
“They had to hear their mothers’ screams.”
Ayala said he hoped those children received “professional help.”
“I don’t think any amount of help will heal their broken hearts,” the commissioner added. “I believe you are very regretful.”
Agostini, herself, is married to a convicted killer, the New York Post reported.
“I am not the same person from 1977,” Ayala also said. “I changed my behavior, violence … I got on a positive journey to honor the victims and their family.”
Ayala was originally dealt two concurrent 25-years-to-life sentences, according to Westchester Magazine. Coincidentally, the federal judge who convicted Ayala, was gunned down in his Westchester home roughly a decade after the fatal '77 home invasion, according to the Times.
Ayala was eligible for release as early as this week but he is being held until he can secure housing, the Post reported.
“Mr. Ayala has yet to identify a residence that is acceptable and therefore, he will remain in DOCCS custody until such time that appropriate housing is located and approved,” a state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision official said, the Post reported.
Jason Minter, one of the victim’s children, said the decision made a mockery of the justice system.
“There’s now nothing you can do in New York to get a life sentence,” Minter, told The Post this week. “The state failed to protect us. The state failed to protect my mother’s memory. We got victimized again.”
The ongoing pandemic he said, prevented his family from giving an in-person statement to the parole board, which he believed factored into Ayala’s early release.
“This year, we were told early on that there could be no in-person meeting due to COVID and that we were going to have to do just a phone interview, which is unfortunate,” Minter told CBS affiliate WLNY-TV.
In August, Minter took to Facebook to spread awareness surrounding his mother’s killer’s release.
“Six years ago, when the board asked Ayala if he hadn't run out of bullets, would he have killed the four young children present so that there were indeed no witnesses, he did not answer,” Minter wrote. “His silence said it all.”
With Ayala’s release looming, Minter said he now fears for his own family’s safety.
“I’m concerned for the life of my family,” Minter told the Post in August. “I have an 11-year-old daughter, and I fear he might seek retribution. He’s a sociopath.”
News of Ayala’s release has also drawn criticism from city officials, parole experts, and has also triggered some apparent pushback from the public. A Change.org petition advocating that Ayala remain locked up has gained almost 7,000 signatures since being created in August.
“There are some criminals — I don’t care how old you are or how many years served — who should never get out of prison,” former state Parole Board Chairman Bob Dennison said, according to the Post. “Ayala is one of them.”
Ayala will be required to register as a sex offender upon his release, the Post reported. He’s prohibited from buying sexual performance-enhancing drugs or medication that treats erectile dysfunction, according to the parole board’s ruling.
The state Parole Board has also been under scrutiny in recent years, particularly following the release of notorious cop killer Herman Bell in 2018.
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