Flanked by Nassau's top law enforcers, the family of a county cop murdered in 1975 by a prowling burglar made a public plea Friday morning to keep the man who shot their father locked up.
The killer, John MacKenzie, is up for parole next week after serving nearly 35 years of a 25-years-to-life prison sentence in the death of 35-year-old Patrolman Matthew Giglio during the burglary in West Hempstead.
Five times over the past decade, parole board members have rejected MacKenzie's bids for freedom.
At a rally held Friday at the Mineola headquarters of the rank-and-file officers' union, Giglio's children, now adults, made an emotional appeal, urging that the three-member parole panel not release MacKenzie.
MacKenzie, 63, is serving his sentence at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility in upstate Sullivan County, where the panel plans to hold a hearing in MacKenzie's case on Tuesday or Wednesday.
For his part, MacKenzie says he is the ideal candidate under the law to be released: he's done good deeds in prison, earned college degrees and kept a disciplinary record even prison officials acknowledge is spotless.
Like other of the state's most serious felons, MacKenzie has sued the state, arguing that officials are ignoring the law on parole by constructively denying release to felons like him.
The union president, James Carver, said that Giglio lost his life, and asks why MacKenzie should live free.
The police union and the Giglio family have rallied every other year since 2000, when MacKenzie first became eligible for parole.
The burglary that ended in Giglio's death happened in October 1975, when MacKenzie and an accomplice had broken into a West Hempstead boutique. Giglio, also an ambulance driver, confronted MacKenzie and the ex-con opened fire. Giglio died later that year.
Said Giglio's daughter, Doreen Velardi, referring to the parole process: "It's a scar that never heals, especially every two years when we have to go through this."
In a jailhouse interview in 2008 with Newsday, MacKenzie said he never gets his hopes up that he'll be released - and he empathizes with the Giglio family.
"If it was my father or my family member, I'd probably feel exactly the same way, and I don't fault them," he said.