Convicted Concord murderer denied parole after refusing to accept responsibility, show remorse

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  • Convicted murderer Clifford Avery looks over at the gallery of the parole room as he is led in to his hearing on Thursday, December 5, 2019 at the N.H. State Prison. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Convicted murderer Clifford Avery looks over at the gallery of the parole room as he is led in to his hearing on Thursday, December 5, 2019 at the N.H. State Prison. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Convicted murderer Clifford Avery gets up after being denied parole after his hearing on Thursday at the New Hampshire State Prison in Concord. “I don’t believe I pose any risk to anyone,” Avery said on Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Donna Sytek, chair of the Parole Board.

  • Bill Greeley, brother of Lee Ann Greeley, who died in 1973.

Monitor staff
Published: 12/5/2019 5:20:00 PM

Seated before the New Hampshire Parole Board on Thursday, convicted murderer Clifford “Edgar” Avery Jr. showed no remorse for killing a Concord woman more than four decades ago and continued to profess his innocence.

“I don’t believe I pose any risk to anyone,” Avery, now 73, said to the board, which last heard his case 10 years ago. “I’ve been in prison now for 30 years and I haven’t been convicted of any new offense.”

As he did in late 2009, Avery asked the board if he could introduce evidence showing his innocence in the death of 18-year-old Lee Ann Greeley in 1973. Board members were quick to stop him. A jury had decided his guilt and they weren’t retrying his case.

“We are bound by the decision of the court and the sentence of the court here in New Hampshire, and they have sentenced you to 18 to life,” board chairwoman Donna Sytek said.

The board was swift in denying Avery parole but said the possibility of parole at a later date still exists. However, the board told Avery not to return until he accepts responsibility and shows genuine remorse for his crimes.

In 1975, a jury convicted Avery of first-degree murder for killing Greeley, whose body was ultimately recovered from the Merrimack River in Hooksett. Before he killed Greeley, he is believed to have killed her fiance, 21-year-old Gary Russell of Pembroke. Prosecutors charged Avery with both murders but dropped the Russell case after securing a life sentence for Greeley’s murder.

At Thursday’s parole hearing, victim advocates read statements prepared by members of both families, some of whom looked on from the gallery in the parole room.

Greeley’s sister, Sara Greeley, and brother William Greeley said they fear what Avery may be capable of if he is ever released from prison, and fear he could hurt more people. 

“He is a very dangerous, manipulative and calculated offender who appears to have no understanding of right and wrong even though he has studied the law while in prison,” they wrote.

They said the brutal murders haunt them every day and that Avery has not served “sufficient time” for Lee Ann Greeley’s death.

“There is no statute of limitations on grief and no parole for a lifetime of feeling loss,” the brother and sister said.

Two years after he was sentenced for Greeley’s murder, Avery and another convicted murderer jumped a wall at the New Hampshire State Prison for Men in Concord and remained on the run for 12 days. They were eventually found hiding in a construction site trailer in the Capital City.

Despite his escape, Avery still earned parole in the summer of 1988 and he moved to Henniker. In the next three years, he was charged with sexually assaulting three boys, including an 11-year-old in Henniker.

Jurors who heard the case involving the 11-year-old were split 6-6. Avery was acquitted of assaulting one of the other boys and the third case never went to trial.

Tim Russell, who served as police chief in Henniker for two decades, previously told the Monitor that the last case wasn’t prosecuted because the boy was only 4. He said the case involving the 11-year-old was not retried to spare the boy the trauma of a second trial.

Although the trial ended in a hung jury and not a conviction, the parole board ultimately revoked Avery’s parole. It concluded that Avery had raped the 11-year-old.

The board tests evidence against a lower threshold than the court system, and it concluded there was convincing evidence of the assault.

While the cases are decades old, they are never far from Russell’s mind. He said he felt compelled to appear before the parole board on Thursday, as he had done in 2009, to strongly oppose Avery’s release.

“During the career of any law enforcement officer, an officer will deal with some very bad and dangerous people, but there are always a handful of criminal offenders who the officer will remember as being pure evil,” he said. “Mr. Avery, to me, is one of those people.”

He said Avery has never admitted to any criminal acts and, instead, has filed motion after motion in an attempt to get a new trial or be granted release.

“In my opinion, he is a criminal with no conscience or remorse, and I believe he is at the top of the scale for the most dangerous of offenders,” Russell said. “If he is released on parole, there is no doubt in my mind that he will be a clear and present danger to his family, his neighbors and the citizens in general.”

Russell said he didn’t believe Avery had ever undergone a sex offender evaluation and treatment while incarcerated. 

Avery confirmed for the board that he had not engaged in treatment or programming; he said he was never told he had to. He said he earned his GED decades ago and has worked in the kitchen at the prison in recent years.

As part of her victim impact statement, Lisa Cote, who is Gary Russell’s niece, asked Avery how he intends to contribute to society if granted parole.

“Mr. Avery is hoping for parole so he can enjoy the same rights and benefits of citizens. Lee and Gary never got to enjoy theirs,” Cote said in a statement read Thursday by an advocate. “The greatest concern this parole board should be concerned with is, if Mr. Avery should get out, who the next door neighbor is. A passerby, a child, no one will be safe and he will prey on someone else.”

Avery told the board he planned to live with his sister in Oregon until he could make it on his own. He said he had no backup plan if that wasn’t approved.

Sytek responded by telling Avery that his proposal to relocate to Oregon generates more questions than answers. Further, she said, his prior actions while on parole, his inability to accept responsibility for his crimes and the fact that he has never engaged in sex offender treatment are all red flags.

“There are a lot of compelling reasons for us to make a decision that does not result in your favor,” she said.


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