Denver, CO – January 20, 0216 – A jury sentenced Robert Willner, 64, to life in prison for first-degree murder almost 25 years ago after he had killed a repo man who had come to take his car.
Former Gov. Bill Ritter commuted that sentence in 2011.
On Tuesday, for the first time, Willner appeared before a parole board to have his case heard, and the family of the man who was killed begged for justice.
Chris Harris was 2-years-old when his father was murdered, but the pain is still raw.
“You know, it’s starting to take a toll,” said Harris, with tears in his eyes. “I didn’t get to know my father. It’s been hard.”
It’s even harder, he said, on this day, because he and his family had to attend a parole hearing for a man they thought would never get out of prison.
In 1990, his father, Steve Morgan, had just started moonlighting with a repo company.
When Morgan went to a home in Littleton to repossess Willner’s truck, Willner ran outside and opened fire, killing Morgan.
A jury sentenced Willner to life in prison and the Colorado Supreme Court later upheld that decision.
But in 2011, Ritter shortened that sentence, to make Willner eligible for parole starting December 2015.
“For 25 years, he has done everything right — what more can he do?” ask Terry Tron, Willner’s sister, who spoke at his hearing on Tuesday. “He is a changed man. I know he is not a threat.”
Willner has not had a single conduct violation since he has been in prison and has received his bachelor’s degree and paralegal certification.
“I just hope he can get released and come live with us in California and stop being a burden on the state of Colorado,” said Tron, who said her brother has had one shoulder replacement surgery and will soon have to have another one.
But for the family of Steve Morgan, not enough time has passed.
“Yeah, I’m glad he’s reformed,” said Harris. “But guess what? I’m not reformed. I’ve had to live without a dad.”
The parole board agreed with the Morgan family on Tuesday, deferring Willner’s parole for five more years.
“At least we get to be able to live for the next four-and-a-half years. And then, we got to start this all over again,” said Harris.
Denver7 requested an interview with Willner, but the Department of Corrections could not arrange it Tuesday.
In the hearing, Willner finally admitted that he had lied in court during his trial and he never thought that Steve Morgan was trying to run him over with the truck.
However, he also claimed he fired at the truck to scare Morgan and never intended to kill.
“He still won’t admit he was trying to kill my husband,” said Wendy Brown, Steve Morgan’s widow. “It’s sad that we have to keep going through this.”