Crime and Justice

Man sentenced to life in prison for murdering his wife declines a chance at parole

Amy Fitzgerald, center, and her mother Ellen Zeltserman in an undated family photo. Courtesy David Zeltserman

A man who’s been locked up since 1994 for killing his wife has declined a parole hearing scheduled for next month — his first chance at freedom after decades of serving a mandatory life sentence.

Gregory Fitzgerald, now 64, was found guilty at trial of strangling his wife, 30-year-old Amy Fitzgerald, at her Shelburne home in 1993. For the crime of first-degree murder, he was sentenced at the time to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

But in January, the Chittenden County Superior Court reduced his prison sentence to 35 years to life as part of a state settlement in a civil case he filed last year. It was the latest in his many state and federal lawsuits challenging his conviction.

The amended sentence made Fitzgerald retroactively eligible for parole in June 2019 — and to finally appear before the Vermont Parole Board on April 7.

Last Thursday, however, he waived his right to the parole hearing, a decision that postpones the parole board’s consideration of his case until around June 2023. 

Fitzgerald said he had not yet completed the programming that the state Department of Corrections required of him, so the hearing was “not necessary” right now.

“I do not wish to waste the Board’s time,” Fitzgerald wrote on the waiver form that VTDigger obtained from the state parole board. “Until I complete programming it would be a moot issue to try and obtain parole.”

Fitzgerald is a prisoner at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield.

A decades-old photo of convicted murderer Gregory Fitzgerald, who's now 64. Photo courtesy of WCAX

When asked what programming he is undergoing, the Department of Corrections said it’s still assessing the level and type of pre-release programming required of him given the serious and violent nature of the crime. The department said the process was kickstarted only after he was resentenced this year.

“Vermont DOC is evaluating Mr. Fitzgerald’s risk to the community, and will make programming and release determinations based on that,” department spokesperson Rachel Feldman said in an email.

Fitzgerald’s decision not to appear before the parole board next month automatically denies him parole this year. Unless specified, an incarcerated person is required to make an appearance when his or her case first becomes eligible for parole, said Vermont Parole Board Director Mary Jane Ainsworth.

A parole hearing or review doesn’t necessarily mean a person will be granted parole. 

She said people who are denied parole won’t get another board review until the anniversary of their eligibility date the following year, unless the corrections department asks the board to assess the case ahead of time. 

Ainsworth said the incarcerated person isn’t required to appear before the board during subsequent parole reviews. But the board can ask to interview the person — and the person can waive an appearance. 

Though he’s already said no, Fitzgerald has until April 6 to cancel his waiver and push through with a parole hearing in May.

Amy Fitzgerald’s survivors include two brothers, Alan and Dave Zeltserman. They objected to the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office’s settlement with Gregory Fitzgerald, saying in a previous interview that they would have wanted prosecutors to continue fighting his appeals, even if it meant going to trial again. They could not be reached for comment on Monday.

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Tiffany Tan

About Tiffany

Tiffany Tan is VTDigger's Southern Vermont reporter. Before joining VTDigger, she covered cops and courts for the Bennington Banner from 2018 to 2021. Prior to that, Tiffany worked for the Rapid City Journal in South Dakota and spent more than 10 years working for newspapers and television stations in Manila, Singapore and Beijing.

Email: ttan@vtdigger.org

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