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Kasich signs bill requiring victim notification of inmate release

Jessica Cuffman • Aug 27, 2014 at 2:38 PM

The man who murdered her, Paul Saultz, now 63, was released from prison three times.

Three times more, he attacked girls in similar ways, and was sent back behind bars.

It wasn't until his fourth parole hearing that, by chance, a stranger to Roberta who had come across her story tracked down her family when he learned Saultz could possibly be released — again.

Her family plead with the parole board to keep Saultz behind bars.

And that's where he's been ever since.

A bill Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law last month will keep that from ever happening again. It requires the Ohio Parole Board to notify victims and their representatives when an offender is up for possible release.

Saultz was up for parole again next month, but his hearing has been continued, as has that of Craig Popke, 47, who killed the son of his girlfriend, 3-year-old Michael Wasserman in 1990.

Popke was convicted of a single murder charge for inflicting third-degree burns on Michael's legs with scalding water, then leaving him to die after days of going without treatment. Michale was ultimately killed by dehydration and blood poisoning.

Michael's mother also was convicted in the case for involuntary manslaughter, but was released from prison in 2005.

Michael's father, Stuart, died just before Michael did. He had aunts and uncles and his grandmother and grandfather left to advocate for him. But after his paternal grandmother died, his family fell out of touch with the system.

Made aware of the pending parole hearing by an article in the newspaper, Michael's remaining relatives rallied to make the parole board aware of their protest to Popke's possible release from his life sentence.

"There's still quite a few of us here in town," said Martha Wassermann, one of Michael's aunts. "We will fight for Michael. We are here."

They knew Popke would be up for parole soon. But they didn't know when. And they didn't know what they should do.

Under the old Ohio law, they would have had to know to sign up for notification from the Ohio Parole Board about Popke's possible release.

Under the new legislation, called Roberta's law, the board is required to notify victims of violent crimes or their representatives of scheduled parole hearings for offenders — unless the victim voluntarily opts out of the notification.

In cases where the victim has died, immediate family members must receive the notification as their representative.


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