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Parole Board denies Fry's release

BY REGINA ZILBERMINTS | APRIL 21, 2011 7:20 AM

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Curtis Fry will stay in prison for at least four more months — and likely longer — after the Iowa Board of Parole refused to release him from prison Wednesday.

That decision isn't surprising, said University of Iowa law Professor David Baldus. What is surprising, he said, is how soon Fry will be up for parole again.

Fry has been incarcerated at the North Central Correctional Facility in Rockwell City, Iowa, since he was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the spring of 2009 in the death of 75-year-old Patrick McEwen.

The now-24-year-old was sentenced to 10 years in prison — a far shorter sentence than the 50 years he was facing for second-degree murder.

"I would be very surprised if they granted someone parole so soon who's committed a homicide," Baldus said, later adding, "That's a very short amount, and usually the board would want to see as much of that sentence carried out as possible."

Fry expressed remorse at the hearing, said Clarence Key, the executive director of the board.
Fry has acknowledged what occurred, but he has said he couldn't remember any of it.

But testimony from the 2009 trial pieced together what happened. Fry arrived in Iowa City Feb. 7, 2008, to celebrate his 21st birthday. He played beer pong at a friend's home — just down the street from where McEwen lived alone — before going to bars.

After having as many as 13 shots, in addition to beer, and being kicked out of One-Eyed Jakes, a heavily intoxicated Fry ran away from his friends. Fry has said that night was the first time he consumed alcohol.

A 6th District judge concluded Fry believed he was in his own apartment and fending off an intruder when he beat McEwen to death before somehow returning to his friends.

Police arrested him the next day.

It's a night that's still discussed among members of Agudas Achim synagogue, where McEwen was a longtime member. Earlier this week, Rabbi Jeff Portman gathered with several others at the Hillel House — where McEwen could often be found during lunch — and talked about the parole hearing.

They still remember hearing all the details at the trial, which several attended each day.

"I was most struck by the brutality of the incident," said Portman, who knew McEwen for more than 20 years. "Patrick was scared of his own shadow. It was the worst, the worst way to die."

Portman testified at the hearing, but he addressed his remarks to Fry, rather than board members. He said he told the young man to devote his life to balancing the scales — doing good to balance out his crime.

The rabbi said he wasn't looking for vengeance when he went to the hearing.

"I was wondering what he felt and how he would treat this," Portman said. "If he got out today on parole, what would he dedicate his life to? Would he go and get drunk to celebrate? I didn't get a good sense briefly at the hearing."

He said he's concerned about what will happen when Fry gets out — whether he will be supervised. And whether he will ever have another drink in his life.

Fry's parents declined to comment, and other friends who testified at the trial couldn't be reached Wednesday evening.

After the hearing, Portman plans to call McEwen's 90-year-old sister, who he reconnected with just shortly before his death.

"We agree Patrick can't come back to life," Portman said. "We hope that Mr. Fry recognizes what he did and feels remorse and never touches another drink."

DI reporters Nina Earnest and Ariana Witt contributed to this report.


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