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Parole denied for ex-Pa. professor who killed wife

| Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole on Wednesday reversed its decision to free a former Ivy League professor who beat his wife to death in 2006, saying he will stay locked up until 2014 at least.

The parole board's decision was made just four days before Rafael Robb was to walk free.

The apparent change of heart happened a day after family members of Ellen Robb met with the board chairman and submitted what they called evidence that her former husband continues to be a danger to society.

In its two-page decision to reverse itself, the parole board cited reports, evaluations and assessments, as well as a “negative recommendation” made by the original trial judge. It did not elaborate beyond that, and the parole board does not consider information before its members to be public record. But it said Rafael Robb will be reviewed again for possible parole in September 2014 or later.

Rafael Robb, now 62, has spent six years in prison and became eligible for parole a year ago when he reached his minimum sentence.

Robb was sentenced to five to 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for Ellen Robb's December 2006 slaying. He beat his wife, then 49, with a chin-up bar as she wrapped presents in their kitchen in the Philadelphia suburb of Upper Merion Township. At the time, he was a tenured economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania who studied “game theory.”

Game theory is a complex melding of psychology, human behavior and economics — all aimed at determining what one's adversary will do next. Initially, he tried to cover up the crime, making their home look like it had been burglarized, but detectives were suspicious from the start because nothing was missing.

In its Nov. 7 decision to grant him parole, parole board members cited Rafael Robb's positive institutional behavior, acceptance of responsibility for the offense and completion of “prescribed institutional programs.” It also cited a recommendation from the Department of Corrections.

But in a letter to the parole board's chairman, the original trial judge, Paul Tressler, objected to the board's decision to parole Robb. In the letter, Tressler wrote that Rafael Robb showed himself during the investigation to be a “highly manipulative individual,” and that such behavior continues today.

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