SYRACUSE — Friends and family of former WSYR radio reporter Bill Leaf will have to wait at least another month before they learn whether the drunk driver who killed Leaf in 2006 will be paroled in February 2012. This is the second time Matthew Benedict’s initial parole hearing has been postponed.
Leaf’s sister Maria, herself a former Syracuse broadcaster, says “another procedural issue” is to blame for the delay, as per a state official she heard from today. Just like when Benedict’s original hearing date in September was scrubbed over a “paperwork issue,” there was no further explanation as to the nature of the issue causing the postponement.
Maria Leaf says the hearing is now set for January 9, 2012. Assuming the hearing isn’t delayed again, the parole board’s decision is expected to be announced on January 13. Maria Leaf says that date, “ironically enough, was the day of Bill’s funeral six years ago.”
Benedict was driving drunk when he slammed head-on into Leaf’s car along Interstate 81 in January 2006, killing Leaf instantly. Benedict was later convicted on charges of manslaughter and criminal possession of marihuana, resulting in a prison sentence of 6- to 12-years. If the board agrees to parole Benedict, he could be released as early as February 19, 2012.
Earlier this year, Maria Leaf established a petition on Facebook called “Honor Bill Leaf. Keep a Killer Behind Bars.” Comments posted to the page before September 1st were submitted to the parole board. When the original hearing was postponed, Leaf said she would continue to collect additional messages in support of denying Benedict’s parole. Those messages will be printed and submitted to the parole board.