'Palm Sunday Massacre' Detectives Enraged After Man Who Killed 8 Kids and 2 Women Is Free
Christopher Thomas was responsible for one of the largest mass shootings in New York City history.
The detectives who helped arrest a man who killed eight children and two women during a 1984 shooting in Brooklyn are outraged that he is now free on the streets of New York City once again.
Bo Dietl, Joe Hall and Herbert Hohmann all expressed their frustration to InsideEdition.com after learning that Christopher Thomas, 68, was freed on a conditional release after serving 33 years behind bars.
In light of Thomas' release, local politicians are also trying to change New York law.
Thomas was found guilty of 10 counts of manslaughter in 1985 for what became known as the "Palm Sunday Massacre."
He opened fire in an East New York home on April 15, 1984, killing two women, one of whom was pregnant, and eight children. One infant survived. At the time, it was the deadliest mass shooting in New York City history.
Ballistic evidence, as well as witness testimony, placed him at the scene of the crime.
In January, Thomas was quietly freed from Shawangunk Correctional Facility in New York. He will remain on parole until June 6, 2034. At that time, he will be 84 years old.
“I couldn't believe it, you know? [I was] sick to my stomach,” former NYPD Det. Joe Hall said of Thomas' release.
Hall doesn't believe in the death penalty "because humans make mistakes," but in this case, he said he could make an exception.
"He should've gotten the death penalty," he said.
New York abolished the death penalty in 2007. The last execution in the state took place in 1963.
Bo Dietl, a former NYPD officer who arrested Thomas, was also angry to hear of his release.
"I can’t believe that 10 souls can never be alive again — eight children — and he's out," Dietl fumed. “Where is the justice for those kids? Where is the justice? They will never have another Easter. He is allowed to go free and enjoy himself. That is not right."
Thomas first became eligible for parole in May 2009 and has been denied a total of five times, most recently in February 2017. Dietl says he wrote to the parole board numerous times, most recently in 2017, to ensure Thomas would not get out.
"I said, 'Please, before you ever release him, notify me, I would like to come before the parole board.' I never heard anything until [InsideEdition.com] called me, and he was out in January. To me, that's disgusting,” he said.
"The crime that he committed, he should never have seen the light of day,” Dietl added.
During an April 5 press conference, New York State Sen. Marty Golden, who represents Brooklyn’s 22nd district, also expressed his dismay at Thomas' release.
"It was a sad, sad day," he said. "Everyone remembers that day... eight kids, two mothers, that will never leave my head. That is something as a police officer, as a person who has a family, as a member of our community that is something that is never going to leave you. This guy does not belong on the streets."
Sen. Golden and New York State Assemb. Nicole Malliotakis took their anger to Albany, introducing new legislation in the state capital mandating that anyone convicted of first-degree manslaughter should be denied a conditional release like the one Thomas was granted.
"It is total insanity that a man who murdered eight children and two adults has now been released back onto our streets," Malliotakis said as the bill was introduced.
Politicians have yet to vote on the proposed bill.
Thomas was arrested in June 1984 and prosecutors claimed that "jealousy and greed" drove him to kill, saying that he had a falling out with Enrique Bermudez, who owned the East New York home, over drug deals.
But Thomas’ lawyer argued that his client had a cocaine addiction and was suffering from depression over his marital problems.
The jury found Thomas guilty of manslaughter instead of murder because they believed he acted without full responsibility due to drug use.
Thomas was sentenced to eight and one-third to 25 years in prison on each of 10 counts of first-degree manslaughter. A judge ordered the sentences be served consecutively for a total of 83 to 250 years. However, under state law, he would spend no more than 50 years behind bars.
New York State criminal defense attorney Ron Kuby, who has no connection to the case, says Thomas’ release was justified. In New York State sentencing law, a convicted defendant can only serve 50 years unless they are given a life sentence, he said.
Thomas served two-thirds of his sentence in prison and was released due to good behavior.
“Had he been convicted of murder, even one count of murder, he might very well be in prison," he said. “Presumably, a sentence that begins and ends in a number means that you will be released one day. A sentence that ends in the word 'life' means that you may never be released. And those two really shouldn’t be conflated as much as people really want [them] to."
The former detectives, however, are not convinced.
"Good behavior? These kids were on good behavior — they were watching television," Dietl argued. "They were on good behavior. He's in jail. You're supposed to have good behavior. The crime that he committed — he should never have seen the light of day."
Retired NYPD Lt. Herbert Hohmann, who assembled the task force that caught Thomas, said: "Despite his drug use [he] methodically, one-by-one killed this family. It is a shame he is still walking the streets. I still think he is a danger."
Hall added, "I understand that he got sentenced to 50 years, and it was manslaughter, and he did two-thirds and he's released. But I still do not understand how you let a person like this out."
According to the New York State Parole Board, Thomas is living in Queens, N.Y., and reports to a Manhattan parole office.
He could not be reached for comment.
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