Sen. Martin: “State officials righted a wrong today.” (Bristol Press)

March 25, 2015

Article as it appeared in the Bristol Press

PLAINVILLE — Convicted cop killer Gary Castonguay will stay in jail after all, the state’s Parole Board ruled Wednesday.

The board, which had come under heavy criticism for its decision in January to release the man who gunned down Plainville police officer Robert Holcomb in 1977, reversed that’s decision following a morning hearing.

Castonguay, now 71, was convicted of killing 28-year-old Officer Robert Holcomb on Nov. 21, 1977.

Castonguay was 33 years old when he fled the scene of a Hollyberry Lane burglary that Holcomb had foiled. In pursuing the presumed burglar, Holcomb was shot in the shoulder by the escapee in a nearby wooded area.

After falling to the ground, the wounded Holcomb was killed at point-blank range by Castonguay, who fired several shots into his chest.

The now 71-year-old was granted parole at a Jan. 9 hearing and was scheduled to be released in July.

Holcomb’s family, however, protested the decision after learning the parole board had agreed to release Castonguay without any input from members of Holcomb’s family, who were not notified of the previous parole hearing.

The family demanded that they be heard on the matter, and a new hearing was scheduled for today.

Several of Holcomb’s relatives spoke directly to the parole board Wednesday in protest of its earlier decision to release Castonguay.

Robert Holcomb’s niece, Maria Weinberger, read a letter to the parole board from the slain officer’s widow, Nancy Holcomb Searles, who did not attend the hearing because she didn’t feel she could be in the same room as the man who killed her husband, her niece said.

“He showed no regard for life, nor any remorse for his crime,” Weinberger read. “Even today, he continues to fabricate the facts of that night in order to suit his needs and somehow excuse his heinous act.”

“He had a deep commitment to civic service, and a heart for protecting his family and his community,” Robert Holcomb’s son, Mac Holcomb said, adding that he turned four years old just a month after his dad was killed.

“I loved and admired him the way that a son should toward his father in every way.”

Mac Holcomb’s only surviving memory of his father, he said, is when his dad came home early one morning from working a night shift and hid a box of doughnuts for his son to find before the family sat down and ate them for breakfast.

What Castonguay did, Robert Holcomb’s son told the parole board, “not only took my father’s life, but deprived me of growing up knowing my dad.”

“State officials righted a wrong today,” State Sen. Henri Martin, R-Bristol said after the hearing. “Throughout this ordeal, the Holcomb family has displayed a tremendous amount of strength and perseverance. I commend the people of Plainville and throughout the state for speaking out on behalf of the Holcombs and rallying to support them. Now that this botched decision has been corrected and this vicious killer will remain in prison, we must now review the circumstances which led us to this day. We must take steps to strengthen the system so that what happened to the Holcombs does not happen to other victims’ families in the future. I look forward to leading that effort.”