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Robert Reldan v. New Jersey State Parole Board

July 9, 2012


On appeal from the New Jersey State Parole Board.

Per curiam.


Argued: June 12, 2012

Before Judges Axelrad and Parrillo.

Appellant Robert Reldan appeals from the June 29, 2011 final decision of the New Jersey State Parole Board (the Board) that denied him parole and imposed a 240-month future eligibility term (FET). We affirm the denial of parole, but reverse the FET and remand to the Board to re-determine the length of the FET.

On October 17, 1979, a jury found appellant guilty of second-degree murder of S.H. and first-degree murder of S.R. In State v. Reldan, 185 N.J. Super. 494 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 91 N.J. 543 (1982), we described the murders as follows:

On October 27, 1975 the body of S.H. was discovered in a wooded area . . . about 15 miles removed from her residence. The body was nude, lying face down and covered with sticks and leaves. It was decomposed, with the skeleton exposed in the head and neck area. The face was mummified. Due to the state of decomposition and the action of animals, the buttocks and sexual organs were missing. A female stocking or pantyhose was wrapped around the neck in the area of the fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae. A stick was entwined in the stocking, apparently to serve as a garrote.

Dr. Frederick Zugibe, [the medical examiner] . . . found "fractures of thyroid cartilage and fracture of cornu of the hyoid bone of the neck." [He] determined the cause of death to be "asphyxiation due to ligature strangulation." At trial he opined that death was produced "by a rather unique technique because in addition to the garrote, which was the piece of wood in between the knot that could be twisted, [a] hand would have to be compressing against the neck at the same time." He explained that a fracture of the hyoid bone was common in manual strangulations and such a fracture indicated use of a hand as well as the garrote. The doctor estimated that death occurred about three weeks before the date the body was found.

[S.R.'s] body was found on October 28, 1975 in Tallman State Park, Rockland County, New York, a point 12.9 miles from the place where S.H.'s body was discovered.

S.R. was found lying face up, nude, with a pantyhose ligature about her neck. There was evidence indicating that the body had been moved to this location after death. Dr. Zugibe . . . estimated the time of death as about two weeks prior to discovery of the body [and] . . . determined that the cause of death was asphyxiation due to ligature strangulation. There was, as in the case of S.H., a fracture of the hyoid bone and the doctor concluded that this resulted from the use of manual force to the throat accompanied by use of the stocking ligature. There was evidence of forced sexual penetration.

With respect to both victims Dr. Zugibe was of the opinion that the force used to turn the ligature was applied from the back of the neck and that the techniques used to fracture the hyoid bone were the same. It was his view that in both cases death was caused by ligature, assisted by the hand of the murderer. [Id. at 496-98.]

We overturned the convictions on appeal due to errors in the admission of other crimes evidence, id. at 504-05, but at retrial on March 13, 1986, appellant was again found guilty of both murders. State v. Reldan, No. A-4588-85 (App. Div. May 15, 1989), certif. denied, 121 N.J. 598 (1990). He was sentenced on June 23, 1989, to thirty years in prison on one count and to a consecutive life sentence on the other count.

Appellant was charged with four counts of advocate homicidal death and one count of conspiracy to commit murder resulting from his request, while he was an inmate at Rahway State Prison in December l976, to another inmate and undercover officer to rob and murder his wealthy aunt and her male companion. He was convicted on all counts on April 26, 1978, and sentenced two months later to concurrent twenty to twenty-five year terms on each count to run consecutive to the term he was serving at the time.

Appellant escaped during his murder trial in October 1979, spraying the officer with tear gas, carjacking an automobile, and robbing a victim of her purse and other items. On December 4, 1980, he was convicted by a jury of escape, possession of an implement of escape, aggravated assault on a police officer, robbery, and theft. The following month he was sentenced to ...

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