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Popke denied, eligible for parole again in two years

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

But Craig Popke, 47, will get another shot at being released in fewer than two years.

Popke was convicted of murder in the 1990 death of 3-year-old Michael Wasserman, the son of Popke’s then-girlfriend, Peggy Wasserman.

Michael’s remaining aunts and uncles attended a Jan. 10 hearing to state their protest against Popke’s possible release.

Days before Michael died, Popke burned the boy’s legs in scalding water, leaving wounds festering without treatment. Michael died of blood poisoning and dehydration.

His mother was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter. She was released from prison in 2005.

A volunteer, who advocates for victims in blocking parole releases for heinous crimes in Ohio, was outraged about the decision.

“I’m happy he got denied,” said Bret Vinocur, of blockparole.com. “But that’s one of the shortest continuances I’ve ever seen. Period.”

“Thank God that family came forward,” he said. “I seriously believe he would have gotten paroled if they hadn’t.”

In similar cases where Vinocur has advocated for victims or their families, continuances are usually set at least five years out. But Popke will have another chance to be released in fewer than two.

“I’ve never in my life seen a child murderer like this,” Vinocur said.

At first, he was hoping the date was a clerical error.

“It’s a slap in the face to Michael Wasserman,” he said. “I’m just very disappointed in the short length of time.”

Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter said there is no standard length of time set between parole hearings.

“For whatever reason, they wanted to see this case again in a few years,” he said.

While Popke’s behavior in prison has been good, he hasn’t taken advantage of programs that could lessen the risk he would re-offend if he were released, parole board records show.

Popke also lacks insight into why Michael’s death happened, according to the parole board.

“For these reasons, due to the very serious nature of the offense, and after weighing all relevant factors, the Parole Board determines that the inmate is not suitable for release at this time,” the decision stated.

For now, Popke remains behind bars on a life sentence.


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