By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Gillian Gibbons’ voice was silenced when David Dart stabbed her 42 times in the Oneonta Municipal Parking Garage on Sept. 12, 1984.
But Jennifer Miller Dutcher intends to use hers to keep Dart in prison. “I am a survivor of David Dart,” she said. “I am a victim who has a voice, and I have to share my story.”
She told her story at the “Justice for Gillian” rally Saturday, Sept. 28 in Muller Plaza, standing at the podium besides Gillian’s sister, Jennifer Kirkpatrick, to encourage everyone to write to the state Parole Board and ask them to deny Dart’s parole this November.
“If he gets out, he will rape, he will kill again,” said Kirkpatrick, who organized the rally with state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford.
“Help us keep him behind bars,” said Miller Dutcher. “Please help us be that voice for Gillian.”
One evening in 1984, Dart came to Miller Dutcher’s parents’ house in Portlandville and asked if he could talk to her. “He was kind of a loner,” she said. “His grandparents asked us to include him.”
She went outside with him, but he dragged her into the alley between two houses and began to assault her. “He had a knife to my throat,” she said. “He threatened to kill me, and I begged for my life.”
She managed to escape and get back home, where her parents called the police. Dart was sentenced to juvenile detention. “I was able to get away with my life, but he took emotional, physical and spiritual things away from me.”
Though her parents asked that he get counseling as part of his sentence, they later learned that he denied all of it. And because his record was sealed, during his trial for Gillian’s murder, the jury was not able to see his prior violent conviction.
“He’s been terrorizing people since he was an adolescent,” said Kirkpatrick.
“I wasn’t his only victim,” she said. “He attacked other girls, but their parents wouldn’t let them speak out. And he didn’t get the counseling that could have turned the tide. Maybe if he had, if we had known, Gillian would still be with us today.”
Retired Oneonta Police Chief Joseph Redmond, a sergeant at the time, read a letter from former Deputy Sheriff Sean Ralph, who was the first on the scene of Gillian’s murder.
“To this day I remember opening that car door and seeing one of the most horrific crime scenes in my law enforcement career,” the letter read. “I would ask that you trust my assessment that David Dart is a savage and brutal killer that perpetrated such violence and rage that he should never be trusted to prey on an innocent victim again.”
“It was people like you who were instrumental in solving Gillian’s murder,” said Redmond. “Now, I urge all of you to get your family, your friends involved in making sure he never walks among free society again.”
Seward handed out flyers with the information on how to write to the parole board, as well as how to support his bill to extend the time between parole hearings from two years to five.
“David Dart is right where he belongs,” said Seward. “Locked up behind bars. Why should he and other violent criminals have a right to a parole hearing every two years?”
Kirkpatrick and her family will tell Gillian’s story before a member of the parole board on Friday, Oct. 4. Letters to the board are due by the end of October in order to be read ahead of Dart’s November hearing.
“If he gets out, he will do this again,” said Kirkpatrick. “It could be your daughter, your sister, anybody.”