Bergen County Sheriff’s Officer Joseph Rybka took with him the pride of those he served as he gasped his final breath on a Paramus hospital floor on Jan. 7, 1979.
Only 32 years old and already a 10-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, he was a proud sentry who protected others from the horrors of crime.
But while guarding a dangerous prisoner at what was then known as Bergen Pines Hospital (now Bergen New Bridge Medical Center), Rybka was suddenly and viciously attacked.
Stephen Perry, an offender with a huge list of offenses, was at the hospital after being wounded in a shootout with Teaneck police. He’d asked to use the bathroom, so Rybka unlocked his restraints.
In an instant, Perry bashed Rybka with his IV stand, snatched the officer’s gun and pistol-whipped him to the floor.
As Rybka lay defenseless, Perry pointed and shot three times at close range, hitting the veteran law enforcer in the leg, chest and heart.
Perry was later caught — still holding Rybka’s gun — and eventually was sentenced to life for murder, assault with intent to kill and a host of other offenses.
He was denied parole twice before recently coming up again.
The Parole Board denied him once more.
Widow Patricia Rybka said that she and her son were both pleased with the outcome.
Pat Rybka is no ordinary survivor. She has campaigned not only to keep her husband’s killer behind bars but has obtained bulletproof vests for officers in New Jersey and met with groups of police widows, among other contributions.
A decade ago, Joseph Rybka was inducted into the New Jersey Police Honor Legion.
Patricia, now 74, took the oath of office in his name.
“We are very relieved. We can both sleep better,” she said after Perry’s recent parole denial. “I hope it stays this way.”
Perry, 64, comes up for parole again in four years. As always, many can be expected to speak against his release from East Jersey State Prison in Rahway.
"The men and women of the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office will never forget the sacrifice made by our fallen hero, Officer Joseph Rybka, and stand in solidarity with the Rybka family,” Sheriff Anthony Cureton said.
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