Found guilty of the rape and murder of Sheila Watson and Bonnie Minter while their children were within earshot at their Northern Westchester home in Lewisboro in 1978, the now-68-year-old Sam Ayala was granted parole in mid-March and could be released as early as Thursday, Sept. 3.
Ayala lived in Fairfield County at the time, in Norwalk.
More than 5,000 have signed a Change.org petition urging New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to keep Ayala behind bars.
Jason Minter, both a son to one of the victims and a witness to the crime, speculated that the convict's release was influenced by the pressures of COVID-19.
"For years, we have done our due diligence by being present at every single hearing and reliving this crime. We have traveled many, many miles to meet with board members in person," wrote Minter in a Facebook post. "We pleaded with the board members, letting them know how we would live in fear if Ayala were ever released--he is a remorseless sociopath. ...
"It occurred to us that our statements might have less power without being able to meet face to face. Yet, we continued to hope for the best.
"We can only speculate that COVID and the lack of in-person accessibility might have impacted our ability to resonate with the board as it had in previous years."According to court documents from Ayala's 1978 trial, he and now-deceased accomplice Willie Profit, who also lived in South Norwalk, accrued 56 charges, including:
- grand larceny,
- criminal possession of weapons,
- and criminal mischief.
A third man, James Walls Jr., waited in a van the three had rented that day, and was allegedly under the impression that his cohorts only planned to rob the two homes they would visit in the quiet north Westchester neighborhood.
Collectively, the two women were shot 11 times.
Minter, then 6 years old, hid with his 3-year-old sister Maggie within earshot.
"Ayala joked and laughed at his prowess during the rapes," wrote Minter. "We very vividly remember his cackling laughter as he raced down the stairs and through the house that day after personally firing the multiple bullets that killed both my mom and her friend as they crawled away.
"Children saw this. Children heard this. Children do not forget these kinds of details."
Two other children, also ages 6 and 3, Lucas and Nicole Watson, also bore witness to the second rape and murder in Sheila Watson's Lewisboro home, located in the hamlet of South Salem.
The judge overseeing the 1978 case, Richard Daronco, noted in his sentencing that Ayala's 25-year-to-life sentence for Ayala was the maximum, indicating that the court felt Ayala should serve a life sentence.
In a letter to New York State Parole Board Chairman Tina Stanford dated Monday, Aug. 14, Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino Jr. called the board's decision to release Ayala a "travesty of justice" that "leaves victims concerned for their welfare."
"The rape and murder of those two Westchester women, Bonnie Minter and Sheila Watson, were heinous crimes that not only left them dead but left the children in the home that day to continue to be the victims of those brutal acts."
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