An infamous Bergen County convict who shot and killed his parents and two younger brothers in their Montvale home during Thanksgiving weekend 43 years ago must spend at least another nine years behind bars before he'll be eligible again for parole.
A state appeals court on Friday ruled that the New Jersey State Parole Board had good reason to deny a bid for freedom last year and make Harry De La Roche wait until 2028 before he can make a seventh application for release.
De La Roche was an 18-year-old freshman at The Citadel military college in South Carolina when authorities said he shot and killed his parents, Harry Sr. and Mary Jane, and brothers Eric, 12, and Ronnie, 15, while home for the holiday.
It was one of the most gruesome crimes in New Jersey history, drawing international attention.
De La Roche confessed at first, saying that he'd been abused his entire life and wanted it to end. He wanted to quit military school, but his father was having none of it, he said.
Then things literally exploded.
De La Roche later claimed that he was under duress when he confessed -- and that his brother, Ronnie, killed the others. Seeing what he’d done, he killed his brother, De La Roche claimed.
He pleaded insanity but was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder in Superior Court in Hackensack in January 1978. He was sentenced to an equal number of consecutive life terms, which he’s serving at South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton.
De La Roche, now 61, went to court after being denied his freedom again last year, arguing that the Parole Board was determined to keep him behind bars “no matter what he says or does.”
The New Jersey Appeals Court refused to reverse the Parole Board’s September 2018 decision, which it said was “amply supported by the record and consistent with controlling law."
The judges noted that the three-member Parole Board's “comprehensive” decision detailed how De La Roche “lacked insight into his anti-social conduct, minimized his violent actions, and denied key aspects of the crimes.”
The Parole Board called him a “troubled individual” who continues denying responsibility for what he’d done, the appeals court ruling says.
The Parole Board cited "the flat emotionless tone in which [he was] able to describe the murders,” De La Roche's “continuing denial” that he committed the killings and his consideration of himself as a victim, the judges added.
He "appeared to lack discernable emotion or empathy" and his answers seemed “rote,” the Parole Board said in its decision. His answers were deemed "rote."
The appeals court cited how De La Roche has yet to "honestly assess [himself], the true nature of [his] violent actions and how realistically [he] will handle/address life experiences of a stressful/confrontational nature if re-released into society at this time.
“The Board's decision was not arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable,” the appeals judges wrote in the decision released Friday. “De La Roche's primary argument to the contrary is without sufficient merit to warrant further discussion; his remaining arguments are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion.”
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