After 25 years behind bars, the man who “emptied his gun” into a Plainville police officer has been getting ready to go free – but that decision could soon be reversed.
Gary Castonguay, 70, was granted parole at a Jan. 9 hearing. But there was one big problem. None of the officer's family members attended the hearing; in fact, they didn't know it was happening.
“We only found about it through word of mouth,” said Valerie Holcomb, the sister-in-law of Officer Robert Holcomb. “I was shocked, appalled. I was in tears.”
Richard Sparaco, executive director of the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles, explained that the family member registered with the Office of Victim Services has died and the state couldn’t reach anyone to let them know.
“The Board was later made aware after the hearing of other family members who wanted to testify, but were not registered,” he said, adding that the requirements of the hearing where "not satisfied."
“It is nobody’s fault but rather an unfortunate technical error – one that we want to and can rectify,” Sparaco said.
Valerie Holcomb, who said family members only found out about the parole this week, called the Office of the Victim Advocate on Wednesday, which worked with the Department of Corrections Victim Unit to expedite the appeal and set up a new parole hearing.
“Victim involvement in the parole hearing is a right and we want to make sure that the statements of the victim, or in this case the deceased victims family are part of the decision-making process,” Sparaco said in a statement Friday.
The three-member panel of the parole board will decide whether to rescind Castonguay’s release based on the testimony of Officer Holcomb’s family members. A date for the new hearing has not yet been set.
“It shows a clear message, when no victims are present, that there is no victim impact anymore, and that is so far from the truth,” Valerie Holcomb said. “He shows no remorse for what he has done and he does not belong on the streets.”
After his conviction in 1989, Castonguay was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison with no definite end date. He's lost previous appeals and is currently behind bars at Macdougall-Walker Correction facility in Suffield.
“This is a crime that has not been forgotten – by his, Robert’s family, by the community, by the Plainville Police Department,” Valerie Holcomb said. “He was a police officer serving to protect and defend our community when he was literally gunned down by this heinous criminal who stood over his body and emptied his gun into him.”