COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A Springs family is fighting to keep a convicted murderer from being released from prison almost 15 years before his sentence is up.
Taxi driver Phillip Swaba, a 60-year-old Vietnam vet, was killed in 2002 after he picked up three homeless men who robbed him and slit his throat in Manitou Springs. The men made off with less than $20.
"All they had to do was ask and my dad would've given them that money," said Felina Swaba-Wheeler, Phillip's daughter. "But that wasn't their intent that night. Their intent was to kill to begin with. We know he didn't die easily, (detectives) said he was sliced and he was diced."
Two of the men involved, Larry Upton and Joseph Marino, were sentenced to life in prison. The third, Christopher Gray, was offered a plea deal for his testimony against the others. Prosecutors said he was in on the plan to rob and kill Swaba, but didn't stab him. He pleaded guilty to second- degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years.
Gray has now served 10 years, but his parole date is coming up in 2012. He would be released into community corrections or a halfway house. Phillip's family got a letter this month saying they had until Friday, August 26 to submit letters to the parole board. They're also asking anyone who knew Phillip or remembers what happened to write.
"I understand he has family too, but at this point, I don't want him in the community, I don't want him in the next person's community," said Swaba-Wheeler. "I don't want other people to face what we've had to face. I can't tell you the sleepless nights."
The Department of Corrections said that Gray's early release is standard with good behavior. DOC spokesperson Katherine Sanguinetti said Gray would remain an inmate if he was released into a halfway house or community corrections setting, and would be strictly supervised.
"We know where they are at all times and they have to be in treatment," said Sanguinetti.
She said Gray would be able to leave for work, but would still have to check in every few hours. Over time he could earn privileges like leaving to visit with family.
KRDO Newschannel 13 tried to contact Gray's family, but their prior phone numbers were no longer working.
You can submit a letter to the DOC by clicking here . Include the victim's name, Phillip Michael Swaba; and Christopher Gray's full name and DOC number, 117956.