If the New York State Parole Board doesn’t reverse its decision, Edward Kindt will walk free from prison in Western New York on Wednesday at 39 years old — the same age as his victim, Penny Brown, a mom of two whom Kindt strangled to death with a dog’s leash after raping her in 1999.
The expected release of the killer, who was 15 at the time of his crimes, has outraged his victim’s family as well as state lawmakers, who are making a last ditch effort to keep Kindt behind bars.
The Kindt matter has become a public safety controversy about how to deal with adults who committed violent offenses, notably sex crimes, when they were juveniles and have served their time and for legal reasons don’t have to register as sex offenders.
“It is unbelievable to me,” Ms. Brown’s sister, Kirsten McElvene told WGRZ-TV. “I just feel like, how can he come out the same age she was taken from us?”
On Mother’s Day in 1999, Ms. Brown — a nurse midwife who’d just delivered her 100th baby — went for a daily jog in Salamanca, New York that would be her last.
Kindt murdered Ms. Brown before dumping her body near an elementary school. His actions left Ms. Brown’s two daughters without a mother and her husband a widower. At arraignment, about 100 people showed up to support trying the then 15-year-old as an adult.
“Why? Why? Why?” the crowd shouted, the AP reported at the time. “She was our friend. We loved her.” The district attorney, Edward Sharkey, told the AP at the time that “the community can rest a little easier now that a suspect is in custody.”
“That was probably the first case that I worked on as a police officer that confirmed for me that the existence of evil is real,” the Cattaraugus County Sheriff, Timothy Whitcomb, recently told WGRZ.
A Republican state senator, George Borrello, told WKBW on Sunday that Kindt “has showed no remorse.”
According to a formal resolution from the Cattaraugus County Legislature issued last week, “Kindt has engaged in a pattern of deplorable conduct and received multiple disciplinary infractions while incarcerated, including — but not limited to — making weapons, stalking, multiple instances of lewdness including exposing himself to a female.”
Mr. Borrello said, “My hope is that the combined efforts of myself, other elected officials, activists, people who have spoken out saying he should not be released, that this will at least show the parole board that the community where he comes from — the community where he committed this atrocious rape and murder — does not want him to see the light of day.”
Kindt’s sentence, nine years to life, was the maximum possible at the time, but in 2003, Ms. McElvene’s family and a Republican state senator, Catharine Young, helped pass Penny’s Law, which allows judges to impose more severe sentences on juveniles tried as adults.
Since that law didn’t apply to Kindt, each of the several times he has come up for parole before, Ms. Brown’s family has urged the board to keep him behind bars, and the community has breathed a sigh of relief when they agreed.
“Penny Brown’s loss devastated our entire region in 1999,” said a Republican member of the New York Assembly, Joseph Giglio. Arguing that the former Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, skewed the parole board toward criminals, Mr. Giglio introduced a bill requiring it to have a member with law enforcement experience and a crime victim or their advocate.
If Kindt is released, he won’t be required to register as a sex offender, and it’s reported to be unclear if he’ll face any restrictions, raising fears that he can move anywhere he likes — stalk, rape, and kill anyone he likes.
Even more terrifying to the community, Ms. McElvene says Kindt didn’t know her sister. It was a crime of opportunity. “I don’t think there’s reform for that,” she said, which leads her to believe he’ll rape and kill another innocent.
Amid fears that Kindt could indeed strike again, everyone impacted by the case from the presiding judge — who said he hoped Kindt never walked free — to Ms. Brown’s family to the people of Salamanca will sit behind locked doors dreading Wednesday unless the parole board reverses course.
There’s always hope, of course, that 24 years in prison has changed Kindt, that he’s the rare example of prison acting as a “correctional facility,” but if he has undergone any such transformation, his detractors aren’t buying it.
“Edward Kindt has evil in his heart,” as Mr. Borrello put it, “and that does not go away.”