THE GILLIAN GIBBONS CASE
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Thirty years after the murder of her 18-year-old Gillian Gibbons, her sister was not expecting the call she got from the state Office of Victim’s Services on Tuesday, July 2.
“Just out the blue I got a call saying they had a letter from David Dart – and did I want to hear it,” said Jennifer Kirkpatrick. “In 30 years, he has never tried to contact us.”
In 1991, then age 29, Dart had been convicted of second-degree murder for stabbing Gillian to death with a “Rambo-style survival knife” – as described in the court transcript – on the second floor of the Oneonta Municipal Parking Garage on Sept. 12, 1989. He was sentenced to 25 years to life, but is up for parole yet again this November.
Jennifer asked to hear the letter he wrote to the parole board.
“Thirty years ago, I committed a horrible crime,” wrote Dart. “I got high, approached her with the intent to rob her, but she told me she didn’t have any money, and I stabbed her.”
“I only want you to know that I am sorry,” he continued. “I would give anything to go back and change things.”
“It’s a joke,” said Jennifer in an interview. “He never said he was going to rob her, so right there, he’s a liar. Why should I believe anything else he says? And if he’s so sorry, why did it take him 30 years to say anything?”
Since Dart’s first parole hearing in 2014, Jennifer has lobbied to keep him incarcerated.
“It’s a huge burden to have to go before the parole board every two years,” she said. “When you go before the parole board, it’s just you and the stenographer, and she’s in tears, she can barely do her job as I’m talking.
“When he goes before the parole board, they read my letter, but the board doesn’t get to see my tears or hear the pain in my voice.”
Wiping away tears, she continued, “But I would do anything for her,” she said. “I’m her big sister.”
Jennifer was the one who found her sister’s body. “We worked together at the Rose Avenue Country Club” – a former Oneonta bar on the East End – “and she was supposed to relieve me at 7 p.m., but she always came in at 6:30 so we could talk,” she said. “So when she didn’t show up and it got to be 20 of 7, I knew something was wrong.”
When Jennifer got off her shift, she went looking for Gillian and spotted her car on the lower level of the parking garage. “She always locked her door, but it was open,” she said. “And when I opened it, her head was on the driver’s seat, her body was over the stick shift and her feet were on the passenger seat. I touched her and she was cold.”
She flagged down a passing police cruiser, and waited while police confirmed her worst nightmare. “I was sitting on the curb and Joe Redmond” – the future police chief was an officer then – “walked up to me shaking his head. I just started punching him, and he held me so tight.”
Police later identified Dart from Amy Chase-Snyder, who testified that she had seen him hanging around the parking garage just before Gillian was killed. Though he tried to tell police he was in Cherry Valley at the time of the murder, when they contrasted his statement with the witness, he confessed and drew police a map to where he had hidden the knife.
At no point during the trial did he indicate he had intended to rob her.
“Nothing was taken from her,” she said. “She had just cashed her paycheck, she had all of it. She had her jewelry. And you don’t rob someone by sneaking up behind them and stabbing them in the neck.”
Inspired by the crime, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, has co-sponsored a bill as part of of the Victim’s Justice Agenda to extend the period between parole hearings for violent offenders from two years to five years.
“A horrific crime was committed here,” said Seward. “And the killer has had three parole hearings since 2014, with another scheduled this year. Every time he comes up, it’s traumatizing for the family, forcing them to needlessly relieve the horrendous details of the crime. It’s cruel, it’s extreme and it’s just not right. The victims’ families should be allowed to heal.”
“I would love it if he would name it Gillian’s Law,” she said. “He knew her.”
As the 30th anniversary of Gillian’s death approaches, Jennifer is considering mounting a protest in Oneonta in hopes of inspiring people to write to the parole board and ask that Dart not be released.
“My terror is that he could still get out and do what he’s been doing,” she said. “He’d be right back here, he could rape, he could murder. He’s a dangerous, sick person. You can’t rehabilitate psychopaths.”