Joel O’Keefe, who led police on a two-week manhunt in 1994 that put the Capital Region on edge, was again denied parole after a hearing last week, the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision said Monday.
After a parole hearing Tuesday at Attica Correctional Facility, O’Keefe was recommitted for at least another two years. Unless he commits more infractions, he could serve a maximum of nine more years. This is his fourth time being denied parole.
Three thwarted escape attempts in prison, as well as numerous other infractions while locked up over two decades, contributed to the decision to keep the former Argyle man incarcerated.
“This panel has concluded that your release to supervision is not compatible with the welfare of society and therefore parole is denied,” the parole board determined. “Of significant concern is your poor compliance with DOCCS rules as exhibited by your receipt of multiple disciplinary violations since you were last held by the Board of Parole.”
In a series of correspondence with The Daily Gazette leading up to his latest parole hearing, O’Keefe, now 54, surmised he would not be released. (His case and subsequent incarceration were profiled in the Aug. 17 Sunday Gazette.)
“One can be quite well-prepared for life on the outside, which I feel I am after over 20 long years and this being my fourth parole appearance, yet still get ‘hit’ by the board,” O’Keefe wrote in one letter. (DOCCS rejected a request for an in-person interview with the inmate.) “While I would very much like to go home, they’ll likely hit me with more time.”
On Sept. 23, 1994, while returning to Saratoga County Jail after an arraignment on weapons and marijuana charges in Washington County Court, O’Keefe bolted from an unmarked — and unlocked — state police car near routes 50 and 67 in Ballston. He was not wearing a seat belt, and his hands were cuffed in front of him.
O’Keefe, then a 34-year-old whose criminal record dated back to 1981 in California, was also facing first-degree burglary, larceny, sexual abuse and unlawful imprisonment charges after sexually attacking a woman at knifepoint in her Round Lake home. He made the woman’s young daughter stay in a closet. He was later apprehended in a Subway shop in Bennington, Vt.
O’Keefe’s apprehension in October 1994 put an end to 14 days of angst for Capital Region residents — there were 400 reported “sightings” — and two weeks of frustration for law enforcement leading one of the most extensive manhunts in Capital Region history.
The board wrote that release now would “so depreciate the seriousness of your offense as to undermine respect for the law.”
The inmate lamented that had he never jumped out of the police car, and kept a relatively clean record in prison, he probably would have been a free man by now.
“I would’ve done a whole lot less time, perhaps only five to 10 years instead of over 20,” O’Keefe said. “It has turned out to be a poor choice in the long run.”
“I’ve been ‘down,’ as they say, for 20 long years now and I’ve definitely done much harder time than I otherwise would have, had I not spent so many years in the ‘Special Housing Unit’ [SHU] in solitary or segregation as a result of my escape back in ’94, as well as a later attempt,” he continued. “Looking back, I would say I didn’t exercise good judgment because I ended up both doing many years — about 18 altogether — in the SHU, plus I had more total years added to my sentence.”