A former Huntington Station man who spent more than 30 years in prison after strangling his newlywed wife on Christmas Eve, dumping her body and pretending that she went missing, is now a free man.
Matthew Solomon, 54, left Otisville Correctional Facility in Orange County on Tuesday to start a new life, state correction officials confirmed.
The former sheet metal worker got married while behind bars and also became a father and grandfather in that time, said his estranged sister, Judith Edlin.
Edlin, 63, of East Northport, was among those Tuesday who said Solomon's exit from incarceration decades after he murdered his wife Lisa, then 22, opened the door to a new kind of grief.
Edlin said the slaying's aftermath ripped apart her own family. She said in an interview at her home that while she often visited, called and sent clothes and cigarettes to her brother for the first decade of his prison time, their relationship grew strained and ended and she hadn't spoken to him in 20 years.
Instead, it was Lisa Solomon's family who became like Edlin's own blood, and she grieved as they did Tuesday.
"Today he gained his freedom," Edlin said. "There's like this bright light shining on everything that was taken from me. The light is just so bright and the weight is just so heavy and it feels so sad."
The state Board of Parole recently granted Solomon a release date after turning him down seven times previously.
The victim's mother, Diane Weaver, said Tuesday that she spent 31 years of her life "fighting the justice system, running up to Albany" to try to keep her daughter's killer behind bars.
"You have no idea how many demons I'm facing today," Weaver, 86, said Tuesday in an interview in her home, also in East Northport. "Now he's out and I don't really have much to say except I'm very disappointed. The justice system is broken … I think that prisons were built for people like him."
A state correction spokesman said Tuesday that Solomon will live in upstate Broome County and will "be closely supervised to ensure his full compliance with all of the conditions of his parole."
Solomon began serving a prison sentence of 18 years to life behind bars after his 1988 conviction in Suffolk County Court for second-degree murder.
Solomon told authorities in a videotaped confession that he and Lisa quarreled after a Christmas Eve dinner of lobster and Champagne before they got into a struggle and he squeezed her neck until the life went out of her.
He used garbage bags he bought at 7-Eleven to wrap her body before leaving it in a nearby field.
Then 23, Solomon reported to police that his wife was missing. He said she went out for a walk while depressed about her terminally ill father, but never came home.
He also led a search for her body, but investigators became suspicious when he made suggestions to Lisa’s relatives about the types of place they should look for her.
Authorities recovered her body on Dec. 30, 1987, and arrested Matthew Solomon on Jan. 12, 1988.
At his trial, Solomon’s attorney contended that his client didn’t intentionally kill his wife but was an “instrument” in a “tragedy.”
The Parole Board, in its decision to release Solomon, cited his record during about 31 years behind bars. It found his freedom was “compatible with the welfare and safety of the community.”
Solomon didn’t respond to a letter from Newsday requesting comment after the parole board’s decision to release him.
He and his mother, who also resides in Broome County, couldn't be reached by phone Tuesday.
But as the convicted murderer marked a new beginning, some of the people who knew and loved the Solomons as a young newlywed couple could think only of the joys that he now would experience that Lisa never did.
"He has flesh and blood. He can watch his grandson grow. He's going to get joy out of this," Weaver said. "There's so many things he's going to get to do."
Edlin said she was sure her brother and mother were "celebrating," as she stayed home in her pajamas, cried, took phone calls and stirred a pot of chicken soup.
"Right now, I feel like you're paying a shiva visit to me," she told a reporter. "Because he gained his freedom today but I feel like everything died today."