Officials: Columbo should never get parole for killing family in Elk Grove

  • Convicted murder Patty Columbo goes before the parole board a the Dwight Correctional Center where she has been for the past 31 years. Columbo is in prison for the murders of her father, mother and brother in 1976.

    Convicted murder Patty Columbo goes before the parole board a the Dwight Correctional Center where she has been for the past 31 years. Columbo is in prison for the murders of her father, mother and brother in 1976. Mark Black/2007

Updated 5/26/2011 3:25 PM

In October 1975, Patricia Columbo meticulously hatched a plan to kill her family, soliciting friends and acquaintances to carry out the murders.

Eight months later, the 19-year-old executed the plot with the help of her 37-year-old boyfriend, Frank DeLuca, murdering and mutilating her parents, Mary and Frank Columbo, and her 13-year-old brother, Michael, on May 4, 1976, in their Elk Grove Village home.


The heinous nature of the murders, and Columbo's cold, calculating and manipulative ways of enlisting DeLuca's help with the killings, were the focus of testimony Wednesday during a hearing on Columbo's request for parole.

Columbo and DeLuca were convicted of shooting her parents and brother and mutilating their bodies. Both were sentenced to 200 to 300 years in prison for the murders and another 150 years each for conspiracy to commit murder. Columbo received an additional 50-year prison term for solicitation to commit murder.

After hearing from both prisoners and opponents to their parole, the Illinois Prisoner Review Board will decide May 26 whether Columbo and DeLuca should go free.

Columbo and DeLuca were interviewed by members of the Prisoner Review Board earlier this year at Dwight and Logan correctional centers, respectively. While DeLuca has admitted shooting the victims, Columbo to date has not owned up to her part in the murders, Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Gina Savini said.

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"She has told so many stories about what happened that day," Savini said. "When she can tell the parole board what she did to her family, maybe she'll have a breakthrough, maybe she'll enter reality."

Savini said that while in prison DeLuca tried to put a hit on the prosecution's two star witnesses, and though Columbo has tried to rehabilitate, finding religion and earning a master's degree, she has been involved in some high-profile scandals in prison.

"Hands down, they both would be a threat to society," Savini said.

Savini said DeLuca has accepted his fate and is ready to die in prison, and Columbo should do the same.

"There are certain people in the world that if the death penalty were available, deserve it," Savini said.

The death penalty was not an option at the time the Columbo murders were prosecuted, which is why the judge imposed life imprisonment, Savini said.


Among those opposing Columbo's release Wednesday were Mundelein Police Chief Raymond Rose, who was the Elk Grove Village Police Department's lead investigator of the murders, and Patricia Bobb, one of three Cook County assistant state's attorneys assigned to the case.

Rose, who has testified at every one of Columbo's parole hearings since her first in 1984, painted a picture of the Columbos' family life, the sibling rivalry and estrangement from her father that would lead Patricia Columbo down the path of hate, and her ultimate planning and execution of the murders, which she tried to make look like a home invasion gone wrong.

Authorities said Frank Columbo was shot in the head four times. Mary Columbo was shot once between the eyes and her throat slit from ear-to-ear. Michael Columbo was shot once at point-blank range. All three victims were stabbed and bludgeoned multiple times. Michael alone suffered 87 stab wounds.

"We can't forget about this," Rose said. "These people need to stay where they are at. We can't keep re-victimizing our community because they are victims as well. The community was in a panic."

Rose said he still gets phone calls from Michael's friends who can't get over what happened to the family.

"We vehemently oppose the parole and release of Patricia Columbo and Frank DeLuca," Rose said.

Elk Grove Village Police Chief Stephen Schmidt, who also testified Wednesday, said to date the Columbo murders have been the worst crime committed in the village's history.

Schmidt added that the victims' family members are still deeply distressed.

"The Columbo family has been scarred for life," he said. "As long as these parole hearings continue, the Columbo family will never have closure."

Rose said he remains haunted by the murders and lives with it every day. He showed photos of the bloody crime scene Wednesday, taking the audience through the murders step by step.

Bobb said even though it's been 35 years, she can close her eyes and remember everything in that house without looking at the photos.

In her seven years with the state's attorney's office, Bobb said she prosecuted a number of murder cases, but "I have to say that this was the one that affected me the most."

People continue to question how Columbo, a young girl with a seemingly normal suburban upbringing, could do it.

"I don't know that we'll ever know," Bobb said. "I know for sure that she was cold, calculating and manipulative. I believe now that she is truly an evil person, a sociopath."

Bobb said Columbo was provocative from an early age and used her sexuality any way she could, including to manipulate DeLuca.

"This is not a situation where a young and naive girl was influenced by an older man to do terrible things," she said.

Savini described Columbo as a pathological liar, an actress and a coward.

"She strung Frank along while she continued to have sex with others," she said. "She performed for them because she wanted them to perform for her. … She wanted her parents killed."

Columbo was "'daddy's little princess' as Frank (Columbo) used to call her," Rose said. After Michael was born in 1963, Columbo started acting out in jealousy, Rose said. She started dressing differently and refused to help out when her mother, Mary, was diagnosed with cancer, or visit her in the hospital.

Columbo, who worked at a local Walgreens and Jewel, started stealing checks and credit cards of employees and eventually got arrested. The first time she threatened her father's life was after he bailed her out at the Elk Grove Village police station, Rose said.

Soon after Columbo started a sexual relationship with DeLuca, a fellow Walgreens employee, and moved in with his wife and five kids. DeLuca later left his family to live with Columbo in a Lombard apartment.

That didn't sit well with Frank Columbo, who confronted DeLuca a couple of times, telling him to leave his daughter alone. In one confrontation, he broke DeLuca's teeth with the butt of a rifle, for which he was arrested on an assault charge, Rose said.

The day of the murders, Columbo arranged to meet with her parents in their home under the guise of settling their feud. The couple launched into their killing spree after Frank Columbo opened the door to his daughter at 10:30 p.m.

Columbo has tried for parole at least 15 times. At least two parole board members have voted to allow Columbo's parole in her last three attempts for release. Columbo, now 54, needs eight votes to win her freedom.