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February 6, 2014

State nixes parole to killer of Milford woman

By Joe Mahoney The Daily Star
Cooperstown Crier

---- — David Dart, a convicted killer from Portlandville, has been rejected for parole from state prison, with a three-member panel of the state Parole Board concluding his freedom would jeopardize public safety.

Dart, 44, has served more than 24 years behind bars for the Sept. 12, 1989, knifing death of Milford High School graduate Gillian “Jill” Gibbons. The victim’s sister, Jennifer Kirkpatrick, led the opposition to his release, and she said Monday more than 3,000 people contacted the Parole Board and urged that Dart be kept behind bars.

Dart was denied parole because his release would be “incompatible with the welfare of society and would so deprecate the serious nature of the crime as to undermine respect for the law, “ the parole panel wrote in a decision that was released to The Daily Star by the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

Kirkpatrick advised her supporters that Dart has a chilling record of accosting women and would likely be a threat if released from prison. She gave a victim-impact statement to the parole board as part of its proceedings leading up to the decision to deny him release.

The board said in a statement it considered Dart’s plan for release as well as his “institutional adjustment, including discipline and program participation” along with his “rehabilitation efforts.”

“More compelling, however, is the callous disregard you had for the life of the young female college student who you brutally stabbed to death,” the three-member parole board panel said in its decision. “The victim’s lifeless body was discovered by her sister several hours later. During the interview, you exhibited little insight into your motivation for this type of heinous crime. You had a pattern of dangerous behavior in the community dating back to Family Court.”

It was Dart’s first application for parole since he was imprisoned in connection with the grisly attack on Gibbons, who was planning to enroll in a school for aspiring airline flight attendants.

Dart’s parole hearing was held last week. Dart, confined to medium-security Otisville state prison, will be eligible for his regular parole hearing this sprint because he had earned the right to a special early hearing last week because of good prison behavior, officials said.

The parole hearing was initially scheduled to take place last November.

That hearing was postponed after The Daily Star contacted the state Department of Corrections and Supervision, inquired about the parole hearing and pointed out that Kirkpatrick, had not been directly notified, even though she signed up on a state web made site to get such notices

When notified by The Daily Star that Dart’s bid for release was denied, Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl said: “I think it’s the only reasonable decision that could be made.”

State Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, had also urged that Dart be kept in prison, contending his release would jeopardize public safety. Seward is backing legislation that would keep violent criminals from being automatically considered for release every two years, and extend that waiting period to up to five years.

Kirkpatrick has been rallying public support for that measure.

Gibbons was killed inside the municipal parking lot in Oneonta, where she was confronted by Dart when she went to retrieve her car. She was stabbed repeatedly, authorities said.

Muehl has called Dart “a psychopath” who likely would have accosted more women had he not been apprehended by Oneonta city police following an intensive investigation.

According to a parole hearing transcript obtained by The Daily Star, the parole commissioners asked Dart why he denied killing Gibbons when he was first arrested, during his trial and even after he was found guilty by an Otsego County jury.

“You really can’t better yourself until you come to grips with anything and everything you have done in your past,” he told the commissioners.

Asked why he would brutally stab a young woman he said he didn’t know, Dart said: “I really have no excuse. I was a little high and drinking that day. But I can’t blame it on the drugs because before I took the drugs I was sober, so I can’t even blame it on that.”

He admitted that he lied about his involvement in the murder because was “just trying to protect” his own family.

Kirkpatrick praised the parole commissioners for rejecting Dart’s request for freedom, but said the statements the killer made to them “made me sick.”

“I really want to thank all the wonderful people from our community and my friends who wrote letters to the parole board,” said Kirkpatrick, who discovered her sister’s lifeless body in the parking garage more than 24 years ago. “I could not have done this alone.”

Kirkpatrick has said she only learned of the parole hearing in November as the result of the efforts of Otsego County Judge Brian Burns, whose office did not receive a notice on the matter until Nov. 14, to keep her in the loop.

Kirkpatrick said that as a result of her efforts to raise public awareness about Dart’s attempt to win an early release from prison, at least two women have come forward to provide details about having been accosted by Dart before he murdered her sister.

Dart became eligible for parole consideration six months before he initially had been scheduled to face the parole board as a result of achieving ratings for good conduct during his confinement, officials said.

He earned the ratings, the parole board noted, after receiving credits for college courses and from his participation in a prison asbestos-removal program, printing, tailor shop, food service and an art program.