Local police chief pushes to block inmate’s parole hearing who killed Niles officer

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Niles Police Officer John Utlak was murdered by Fred Joseph, Jr. in 1982

NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – A convicted cop killer is eligible for a parole hearing and tonight, a local police chief is asking for help to stop it.

Niles Police Officer John Utlak was murdered in 1982.

Wednesday night, Vienna Police Chief Bob Ludt, a former Niles policeman, asked Niles City Council for help in keeping Utlak’s killer in prison.

“Back on December 8, 1982, there was a terrible incident where one of our police officers was killed in the line of duty. He was shot and killed, it was an assassination type thing,” Chief Ludt said.

The killer’s name is Fred Joseph, Jr. He was a juvenile when he killed Utlak and was sentenced to life in prison. But due to a change in state law, Joseph is now eligible for a parole hearing.

“I was hoping tonight to get the city of Niles to, as a group or individually, contact the parole board to object to the release or parole of Fred Joseph,” Chief Ludt said.

Chief Ludt’s request has the support of councilman Doug Sollitto.

“Since being in prison, he has been far from a model inmate,” Sollitto said.

Sollitto said he’s confident that his fellow council members will support Chief Ludt’s request.

“The state of Ohio is all about rehabilitation and correction, but sometimes the rehabilitation process just doesn’t happen. You don’t want more lives to suffer at the expense of trying to fix something that might not be able to happen,” Sollitto said.

Chief Ludt says letting Joseph out would send the wrong message to anyone connected to Utlak.

“What kind of message does that send to us as police officers? What kind of message does that send to the family of John Utlak? His sister? His family?” Chief Ludt said.

No formal decision was made at Wednesday’s council meeting.

Joseph’s parole hearing is set for sometime in September.

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