Family of murdered Middleboro man fighting to keep teen killer in prison

MIDDLEBORO, Mass. — Thirty-four years ago, Lewis Jennings was viciously murdered in his Middleboro home.

Two men, Michael Eagle, 18, and Jeffrey Roberio, 17, were convicted of beating and strangling the 79-year-old Jennings to death during a house break.

Both men were sentenced to life without parole.

But in June, Roberio appeared before the Massachusetts Parole Board for the second time, seeking his freedom.

A recent landmark SJC ruling banning Life No Parole sentences for people younger than 18 is giving teen killers like Roberio the opportunity for parole.

The family of Lewis Jennings is fighting back.

Granddaughter Claudette Vickery attended Roberio’s recent parole hearing and she is concerned her grandfather’s convicted killer could soon be free.

“The death of my grandfather was not natural. It was dreadful. It was violent. It was shameful,” Vickery said.

Roberio’s parole hearing was held under strict COVID-19 protocols, meaning that he did not appear in person before the board, but instead, over a video conference from a jail cell.

This is how the parole board is conducting its business during the pandemic.

When the Massachusetts Parole Board rejected Roberio’s first request for parole in 2015, the board noted that Roberio had not taken steps to curb his anger and other issues.

In his second hearing, Roberio was able to point to programs he has taken to help rehabilitate himself.

Vickery was not impressed.

“Jeffrey Roberio made wrong choices. And as a consequence of the extreme nature of what he did, I think he deserves to remain in prison and live out his life that way. So that he doesn’t have the opportunity to harm another person,” Vickery said.

The Massachusetts Parole Board is considering Roberio’s second parole request.

A decision could come at any time.