Grieving father opposes death penalty

By Becky Aubut, Anchor Staff

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MASHPEE, Mass. — In 1997, Robert Curley lived every parent’s worst nightmare when his 10-year-old son Jeffrey was kidnapped, raped and murdered by two men. Consumed by his emotions, Curley sat through two trials that ultimately convicted both men but left Curley torn and grieving. As a guest speaker for Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation, the Respect Life Ministry at Christ the King Parish in Mashpee extended an invitation to Curley to share his personal story.

Curley began his story, talking about his son Jeffrey and how Charles Jaynes (then 22 years old) and Salvatore Sicari (then 21 years old) lured Jeffrey into Jaynes’ car with the promise of a new bicycle on Oct. 1, 1997. 

“Jeffrey told his grandmother he was going with some friends to get something,” said Curley, adding that as the youngest of three sons, Jeffrey trusted everyone, including Sicari who lived in the neighborhood. 

A member of the North American Man/Boy Love Association, Jaynes — the “mastermind” behind the kidnapping, said Curley — offered Jeffrey a bike for sex. When Jeffrey refused, he was offered money, which he also refused; that’s when things got violent and Jeffrey was suffocated to death with a gasoline-soaked rag. Jeffrey was transported to an apartment in New Hampshire, where he was sodomized and his body stuffed inside a Rubbermaid container and tossed into a river in Maine.

Before Jeffrey’s murder, Curley hadn’t given much thought to the death penalty, he said. He said that it would depend on the crime; sometimes the death penalty seemed to be the right punishment, and other times Curley would hear about those wrongly convicted and realize that maybe not every punishment fit the crime. After Jeffrey’s death, Curley found himself becoming an advocate for capital punishment.

Curley said he “felt obligated to do it” but was never entirely comfortable, but said that he found his motivation through wanting to punish Jaynes to the fullest extent; Jaynes is as “evil as they come,” said Curley. “He got a thrill out of the pain and suffering he caused.”

Sicari’s trial went first, and though Curley labeled him as the “tagalong” and follower of Jaynes, Sicari was convicted of first-degree murder with no possibility of parole. Jaynes, who had the benefit of having his trial second and “have everything go his way,” said Curley, had a good defense lawyer and was found guilty of second-degree murder with the possibility of parole. Currently Jaynes is eligible for parole, but Curley has been present at every parole hearing and vows that he will do everything in his power to stop Jaynes from walking free.

Torn as he was over wanting to see his son’s kidnappers pay the ultimate price for their crime, Curley said his defining moment regarding his opinion the death penalty came when he heard about Bill Babbitt, who turned his brother, Manny, in to authorities when he suspected his brother, a paranoid schizophrenic with post-traumatic stress disorder, had murdered an elderly woman. When Babbitt turned his brother in, he was assured that Manny would not be subject to capital punishment. Manny was found guilty and executed on May 4, 1999.

Curley cited how David Kaczynski, brother of Ted Kaczynski, who was the Unabomber convicted of killing three and injuring 23 people with a series of mail bombs, turned his brother in to authorities. Able to afford a better defense than Babbitt, the Unabomber would be sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole in a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

To see his son’s murderers — Sicari and Jaynes — receive different penalties made Curley realize that “our justice system isn’t always fair,” and upon hearing Babbitt and Kaczynski’s stories, Curley realized that though he felt obligated to support the death penalty, he questioned if changing his stance would be disrespectful to Jeffrey’s memory.  

Though Curley has admitted he can never forgive Jaynes and Sicari for killing his son, he stopped pouring his energy into trying to reinstate the death penalty in Massachusetts and has become an advocate against capital punishment and regularly testifies before Massachusetts’ lawmakers against reinstatement of the death penalty.

Though he says he will always miss Jeffrey, Curley said that through a slew of lucky breaks for investigators, his family was fortunate to know what happened to Jeffrey; “I have people tell me all the time you’ll feel better, but I can’t. We were lucky,” said Curley. “Some families never find their children or know what happened. We were able to bury him.”

Margaret Diggins, parishioner of Christ the King Parish, said she felt compassion for what Curley has been through, and that “it’s a very tough decision to make but it’s not something we can do. It’s in God’s hands. I think he is still going through the agony of losing that beloved son. It’s hard for him every day.”

Betty Kelley, who helped organize the presentation, said she’s been immersed in research for months and reading very similar stories, and concurs with Curley’s position of advocating against the death penalty, and that as Catholics, “we don’t have any right to take a life. I haven’t walked in his (Curley’s) shoes, but Jesus Christ, the Man, was dying on a cross and He said, ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,’ and I think that’s where to start.”

© 2017 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing  †  Fall River, Massachusetts