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December 12, 2013

Sisters of murder victims find bond

(Continued)

Kirkpatrick said because of an apparent bureaucratic snafu, the state failed to contact her and let her know that Dart was to have had the parole hearing Nov. 20. She said she only learned of the hearing through the efforts of Otsego County Judge Brian Burns, who had arranged to have a mutual friend make sure she knew about the hearing.

“Parole needs to be held accountable for what happened here,” said Kirkpatrick.

The hearing was postponed to January, with the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision saying the rescheduling was necessitated because the inmate’s file was incomplete. Kirkpatrick said she believes the postponement came because a reporter learned local judicial officials had received late notice of the hearing and there was an apparent breakdown in the victim notification system that she had hoped would keep her abreast of all matters relating to Dart.

Kirkpatrick said she is appreciative of the support she is getting from Berg, emotional and otherwise. Berg, in fact, said she plans to write a letter to the parole board opposing Dart’s release from custody. Berg said she also plans to accompany Kirkpatrick to Albany on Dec. 13 when she gives a victim impact statement to the parole board.

“I’d like to help Jennifer in any way I can.” Berg said. She said the state fell short in its obligation to keep her notified in a timely way on the Pierce parole hearing, and she did not know until it was too late that the hearing date was rescheduled for two months earlier than the initial date that had been posted on a state website listing parole date information for inmates.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision said her agency’s records show that the agency did make official notifications to members of Wendy Cooper’s family months before the parole hearing. The spokeswoman also noted that the parole hearing dates on the website are tentative and subject to change. She also pointed out that letters opposing a release are kept in the inmates’ file jackets, and would be routinely reviewed at subsequent parole hearings.

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