A man who raped and murdered a New Milford woman in 1976 is up for parole for the fifth time since 1976, and her family is asking the public's help to once again make sure he doesn't become a free man.
Christopher Righetti is eligible for parole on April 16, nearly 36 years after he killed Kim Montalero, a 20-year-old college student who he kidnapped from the on Aug. 31, 1976, brutally raped and stabbed to death in a secluded area of the Pine Lake Swim Club in Washington Township.
"He should have been executed when this happened, when he murdered our daughter," said Kim's father, Tony Montelaro. "He'll do it again. ... He's already taken our daughter's life and now we've got to relive that every time that son of a bitch comes up for parole."
Righetti, a Northern State Prison inmate whom officials said has the word "animal" tattooed on his body, is a champion prison powerlifter who can squat 1000 pounds. He was denied parole in 2009 and declared ineligible until 2022.
But in January 2010, the state Legislature passed two bills during its lame-duck session under Gov. Jon Corzine, mandating that inmates who have been denied parole receive a new parole hearing every three years. The bills, A4201 and A4202, called for a panel to review prisoners who had served 20 years or more on their sentences.
Gov. Chris Christie repealed these laws, but Righetti "fell between the cracks," Montelaro said. Each time that Righetti has come up for parole, the Montelaros have had to travel from their home in Florida to press the state to keep Righetti locked away.
Righetti, who was a 16-year-old, 200 pound teenager from River Vale when he killed Kim Montelaro, had served 13 months in a state juvenile correctional facility for rape, and shortly upon his release had attempted to rape another woman.
Tony Montelaro said that it was revealed during Righetti's trial that he learned from other prisoners in juvenile detention that when you rape someone "you kill them so you won't get caught."
Montelaro said that the coroner's report indicated that Kim had suffered a "slow, agonizing death" over a period of 15 to 20 minutes.
"Her death resonated throughout just about every community in Bergen County," Chief Randy Ciocco said.
"I was a rookie cop then," recalled Ciocco. "The day that Kim was kidnapped I remember driving my patrol car past the swim club and seeing a suspicious car, but as I was about to pull into the parking lot I received a call over the radio to investigate a theft at the high school," he said, his voice noticeably shaking.
It was later determined that the suspicious car he saw was Kim's.
"If I had just pulled into that parking lot," Ciocco said.
Righetti drove her car back to the Paramus Park Mall parking lot after the murder, where her father found it hours later with the keys in the ignition and her sandals on the floor.
Kim's body was discovered the next morning by a group of young boys who were on their way to play ball. A friend of these boys stated in his 2009 letter to the parole board that none of the boys who found Kim's body were ever the same after that "traumatic day."
Ciocco said that a search of the lake turned up the knife that was used to stab her. Because of the handle's unique design, investigators were able to trace the knife to a shop in Westwood where the owner remembered selling it to Righetti.
Investigators said that the shopkeeper remembered "how scary that kid was."
Officials soon learned about the 40-year old woman whom Righetti attempted to kidnap at knifepoint shortly after his release from juvenile detention. The woman was too frightened to drive and Righetti fled the scene.
The woman reported the incident, but because Righetti was a juvenile, she agreed with the police officer that she would not press criminal charges as long as Righetti received psychiatric treatment. People familiar with the case said that she lives with the knowledge that had she pressed charges, he would not have murdered Kim.
Chief Frank Papapietro remembered how the random brutality surrounding her death affected entire communities.
"Kim became everyone's daughter, sister, niece, cousin, friend," he said. "The randomness of what happened to her could have happened to anybody. And that absolutely terrified people."
"My sister and cousins knew Kim," he added.
Assemblyman Robert Schroeder (R), through his group Keep NJ Safe, is once again leading the charge to keep Righetti behind bars by organizing a petition drive, just as he did in 2009. Click here to sign the petition.
Papapietro is urging residents to sign the petition.
"Through Bob and [Chief of Staff Lisa Yakomin] they've done a marvelous job in assisting us and helping us in convincing the parole board never to release Christopher Righetti," Montelaro said.
"It tears us apart. It's a very trying time every time this parole hearing comes up," he said. "She was smart, she was pretty, she was intelligent, she was abducted, raped and stabbed to death when she had just turned 20-years old."