Second man paroled in 1988 Gloucester murder | News

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GLOUCESTER — The second of three men convicted of beating, stabbing and choking a gay Gloucester man to death back in 1988, when they were teenagers, has been granted parole.

It was Joshua Halbert’s fourth try for release on parole since that option became available under a 2013 decision by the Supreme Judicial Court that life sentences without parole for juveniles — the sentence Halbert received in 1989 — were unconstitutional.

Halbert, now 52, was less than a month from turning 18 when he and two friends, John Nichypor, 17, and Kevin Pierce, 18, decided to, in their words, “roll” a gay man (whom they referred to with a slur) by targeting 38-year-old David McLane.

McLane had spent the evening at a family birthday celebration in Arlington and then drove home to Gloucester on the night of Sept. 28, 1988. Pierce, who knew McLane, called him, telling the victim that he and his friends “had a surprise for him,” according to a statement Halbert later gave to police.

McLane brought the three teens to his home. Less than an hour later, he was set upon, with Halbert later admitting punching and kicking McLane’s testicles as McLane pleaded for him to stop and just take anything he wanted.

Halbert then took a boxcutter and slashed McLane’s neck, twice, until blood started coming out.

Pierce, who had held McLane in a “sleeper hold” and then facedown against a sofa cushion, stabbed McLane in the head. When Halbert realized that McLane was still alive, he also stabbed his head.

Halbert and the other teens grabbed a coin and currency collection from McLane and took off. McLane was found the following day by friends who went looking for him when he didn’t show up for work at a Sears hardware store.

The three were convicted of first-degree murder. At the time, they were all at 17 and 18, considered adults by the legal system.

But the 2013 Supreme Judicial Court decision opened the door for Halbert, Nichypor (who was paroled in 2018) and others convicted of first-degree murder as teenagers, to seek parole.

Because Pierce was 18 at the time of the murder, he will never be eligible for parole.

Halbert first tried in 2014, followed by requests in 2018 and 2021, when he was offered a chance to return in a year.

His most recent parole hearing was last November.

At that hearing, Halbert, who had been appointed a public defender, Erica Cushna, submitted evaluations from a forensic psychologist and a social worker, and presented evidence that he’d had a difficult upbringing as the child of heroin-addicted parents, who was exposed to violence, then placed into foster care, where he was sexually abused.

The board’s Jan. 19 decision indicates that it considered a number of factors in deciding to grant parole, including his “lack of maturity and underdeveloped sense of responsibility, leading to recklessness, impulsivity and heedless risk-taking; vulnerability to negative influences and outside pressures, including from their family and peers; limited control over their own environment, lack of the ability to extricate themselves from horrific, crime-producing settings; and unique capacity to change as they grow older.”

The board also cited Halbert’s participation in work, educational and treatment programs.

The board concluded it is “of the unanimous opinion that Joshua Halbert is rehabilitated and therefore, merits parole at this time.”

The Essex District Attorney’s office, which opposed Halbert’s release on parole, noted in its opposition that under the current law, Halbert, convicted under theories of extreme atrocity or cruelty and with deliberate premeditation, would not be eligible for parole until he’d served 30 years, and that “Viewed in this context, the 34 years Joshua Halbert has served to date remains at the low end of the sentence the Commonwealth, through its elected representatives, has deemed warranted and appropriate.”

The district attorney’s office also said it remains concerned that Halbert still represents a public safety risk.

Halbert has been in custody at the Pondville Correctional Center in Norfolk.

The Parole Board voted unanimously to grant parole after one more year in lower security, to a long-term residential program.

He will have a curfew between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., and will be required to wear an electronic monitoring device, as well as submitting to random drug and alcohol testing and participation in at least three Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings per week.

He will also be barred from any contact with McLane’s family.

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