The Waterbury man who violently raped a young mother near her sleeping children more than two decades ago will be released from prison in New York in October.
The victim, Donna Palomba, tells NBC Connecticut she is angry and afraid because her attacker will be getting out of prison three years early.
“My adrenaline started racing, I couldn't even catch my breath. My heart was beating out of my chest. What do you mean? This is terribly wrong, this can't be possible,” Donna Palomba told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters.
It was September of 1993 when a masked man carrying a knife and gun entered Palomba's Waterbury home, in the quiet Overlook section of the city.
The intruder bound, raped and threatened her while her two children were just down the hallway.
When the incident was over, Donna ran to a neighbor’s home for help, when she realized the phone lines had been cut. That neighbor dialed 911, and handed the phone to Donna. “I begged him to keep me alive, I felt something in my head, I felt it was a gun for sure," Donna told the 911 dispatcher back in 1993.
Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary is the city's former police chief and helped solve the crime that ended in John Regan's conviction.
“I was in shock because I felt awful for Donna, who had already been through so much and the system has not been favorable,” O'Leary said.
The crime rocked the Overlook community and divided police.
At the time of the crime, some officers accused Palomba of lying, and threatened to arrest her.
“Unfortunately, it's been well documented the investigation was less than adequate, quite frankly," Mayor O’Leary said.
O’Leary said he never doubted Palomba.
Her rapist was not found for another 11 years, in 2004, when a DNA hit confirmed it was Regan, a close Palomba family friend, who had attacked her. Regan had just been arrested by police in Waterbury for assaulting a female co-worker.
“I was police chief when this DNA evidence came back," O'Leary said. He called it a defining moment of his career. “Very much so, for all of us, sad," O’Leary said.
Donna Palomba was put through hell. Her case helped change Connecticut law by eliminating the statute of limitations on sexual assaults that are later solved with DNA evidence. Her story even became an episode of Dateline NBC in 2007, when Palomba for the first time ever, revealed that she was a rape survivor.
The statute of limitations for the rape had expired by the time of Regan's arrest, so police could only charge him with kidnapping in Connecticut.
While out on bond a year later, Regan was arrested again. In 2005, police in Saratoga, New York say he tried to shove a then 17-year-old track star into a van with a tarp, noose, syringe and sedative inside.
For that crime in New York State, Regan got 12 years in prison there, to be served concurrently - meaning at the same time - with seven years for the co-worker assault in 2004 and 15 years for Donna Palomba’s attack.
Palomba says the prosecutor back then, who has since passed away, promised that Regan would serve those remaining 3 years he owed to the state of Connecticut at a correction facility in the state.
But that will never happen thanks to an old law called “Statutory Good Time.” It allowed Regan to earn 1,472 days, or just over four years off his sentence for the attack on Palomba.
With that, Regan fulfilled his Connecticut sentence as of August 21, 2017. His New York sentence is done in late October.
"It's just another punch in the gut. It's just re-victimization," Palomba said. “I cannot imagine how a serial offender whose harming human beings, with serious offenses could qualify for something called 'Statutory Good Time.' The name alone is nauseating."
“Because that incident happened in 1993 and this statutory good time didn't come off the Connecticut law books until a year later, John Regan qualified, so that three years he was supposed to do in Connecticut, he built up enough statutory good time to nullify every minute,” Mayor O’Leary said.
Palomba, the founder of the “Jane Doe No More” organization for sexual assault survivors, is sounding the alarm for Connecticut.
“I don't believe John Regan is done yet. And I don't think it is right for anyone to give him an opportunity to do it again. This is a very dangerous man."
For the Connecticut Department of Correction, there is nothing they can do.
"We legally cannot hold him any longer," Dept. of Correction spokesperson Karen Martucci said.
Martucci admits they feel for Palomba, but, their hands are tied.
“We're required to follow the law, which is once that sentence has been served, we no longer have that authority and we have to release the offender," Martucci said.
State Sen. Len Suzio (R-22) and State Rep. Dr. Bill Petit are working to do more for victims like Palomba. While the statutory good time law is gone, the state does have a program called “Risk Reduction Earned Credit" where offenders can still earn some time off their sentences, depending on the type of crime. Under the law and depending on what level of an offender one is, convicts in the State of Connecticut can earn three, four or five days each month as an earned credit off their total sentence.
"Crimes like this shouldn't be eligible for any form of early release credits," Sen. Suzio said.
"Too much emphasis on the criminals and not enough on victims, and I think it's critical for the legislature and specifically the judiciary committee to make sure they get input on these changes and statutes," Rep. Petit said.
Donna and the organization she created to help all victims of sexual assaults, “Jane Doe No More,” will continue to fight.
“This fuels me even more, I'm not going away and neither is 'Jane Doe No More.'"
NBC Connecticut reached out to John Regan's wife and his brother, who is an attorney in Washington. D.C., but there was no comment and no reply back.
We have also written a letter to John Regan, in New York prison but haven't heard back.
The current State's Attorney in Waterbury released a statement about Regan's case.
"John Regan was sentenced to a term of 15 years imprisonment in 2006. This sentence was ordered to run concurrent to a sentence he was serving in the state of New York. Several years ago, the Waterbury's State's Attorney Office had lodged a detainer with New York authorities requesting that Regan be transferred to the custody of the Connecticut Department of Corrections when he was released from New York custody. After being informed that Regan was about to be released to New York parole, this office began the process of making arrangements to bring Regan back to the state of Connecticut. At this point, it was determined that due to accrued time, Regan was actually scheduled to complete his Connecticut sentence on August 21, 2017. These early release credits are established by Connecticut law. This statute must be applied and are calculated by the Department of Corrections."
Officials say at the end of October, John Regan will be released into the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Board of Parole and will likely transition into a halfway house in Upstate, New York.
It's unclear whether John Regan would return to Connecticut. Officials at the Department of Correction in Connecticut tell NBC Connecticut Regan will be required to register as a sex offender and will remain a lifetime sex offender registrant.