The family of a 22-year-old woman killed in 1992 by her former boyfriend as she protected a 3-month-old child in her arms went before the state Parole Board recently to argue that her killer should not get out on parole.
On Wednesday, they learned that Paul Clute’s first bid for parole in a 20-year-to-life sentence was denied.
“I’m glad, I’m so glad,” Melissa Fennicks’ mother, Claudia, said Wednesday after hearing the news. “My two granddaughters called me yesterday, and they were terrified.
“I’m thrilled and relieved. Thank God.”
Clute, now 42, went before the Parole Board on Tuesday. He was notified Wednesday of the decision to deny him parole, allowing the decision to be released publicly.
Fennicks was killed July 27, 1992, in her mother’s Moyston Street home. Inside the home at the time were seven children, ages 3 months to 10 years. Three of the children belonged to Fennicks; the others were being babysat at the home.
Fennicks was holding the youngest as she was attacked and sustained 16 stab wounds from Clute but managed to shield the baby in her arms. Her last words were “Take the baby” as she handed the unharmed infant to her niece.
Protecting the baby was an act by Fennicks that Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney last month called heroic. Fennicks was the focus of Take Back The Night, an anti-domestic violence event held at the YWCA, where her daughter Amanda, who was just 4 at the time, recounted the day her mother was killed and the impact it still has on the family.
In connection with the event, the family planted a weeping crab apple tree at the YWCA in memory of Fennicks.
Carney joined Fennicks’ family in making the case against parole for Clute. In a letter, Carney outlined the enormity of the crime and noted that the only reason prosecutors agreed to the 20-year-to-life sentence was to spare the children who witnessed the killing from having to testify.
He noted that Clute’s disciplinary record in prison includes at least five weapons offenses and confinement in special housing.
Carney responded to the parole board’s decision by saying he obviously believes it was the right one. He also referenced meeting with the family at last month’s YWCA event.
“What is clear is the pain and the trauma that they experienced with the death of their mother is real and palpable even today,” he said. “The harm that he did was permanent, and from what I know about his time in prison, there is nothing to show that he could be trusted to live in society.”
In its decision, the Parole Board brought up the same concerns, the crime itself, and that it happened in the presence of children.
“Your actions demonstrated a blatant disregard for the law and the sanctity of human life,” the board wrote.
The board also noted this is Clute’s second term in prison and that he was recently cited in prison for weapons and smuggling.
“This poor behavior gives this panel little confidence in your ability to live and remain at liberty without violating the law,” the board wrote.
Clute is next up for parole in two years. Claudia Fennicks said she and her family will be there, too, to tell their story again.