fights for victims on his time - He's blocked the release of
over 15 rapists, murderers
Barbara Carmen, The Columbus Dispatch, December 27, 2007
"He's on his second law. He may be the only one out there who's done that. He is passionate and smart and a great advocate for victims of crime."
-U.S. Congressman Steve Stivers
As of May 2012 our organization has helped blocked the paroles
of over 60 violent criminals.
Bret Vinocur spends hours at the gym, has
a solid job, a self-deprecating sense of humor and a nice suit.
But he once
quipped that he has trouble getting a
second date. "Twenty minutes
into dinner with me, all the women are
in tears. They say, 'I can't handle what
you do.' "
By day, the 40-year-old Vinocur collects
money from insurance companies for Safelite
AutoGlass. At night, he works full time
as a volunteer advocate for crime victims.
He pores over autopsy photographs, prowls
through court records, interviews police
officers and compiles notebooks detailing
Then he takes a vacation day from work,
puts on his suit and goes off to fight
the Ohio Parole Board or lobby the General
In five years,
he has blocked the release of 15 rapists
and murderers, working free
on behalf of grieving families who are
at a loss to fight the system.**
By spring, the General Assembly is expected
to pass Vinocur 's second victims' rights
bill, sponsored by Sen. Steve Stivers.
"Of all the laws we pass, less than
1 percent have come from an ordinary citizen
who just wanted to make things better," said
Stivers, a Republican from Columbus.
on his second law. He may be the only
one out there who's done that.
He is passionate and smart and a great
advocate for victims of crime."
Roberta's Law, named after a teenager
murdered on her way home from school, would
require the parole board to notify all
victims of violent crimes and their families
when the person who committed the crime
is to be released from prison. Roberta
Francis' father never got a call from the
state. It was Vinocur who helped him get
the murderer's parole revoked.
The new law also would require the board
to grant hearings to all families fighting
a parole. Depending on the crime, such
hearings are currently at the board's discretion.
Vinocur prepares for a parole hearing
as if it were a matter of life or death,
which, he said, it is for the next unsuspecting
"All day, I'm like Clark Kent sitting
in a cubicle," he said. "At night,
I memorize these cases.
only way to do it right -- the only way
to be able to effectively argue that
this person should never be let out --
is to get yourself into the head of the
victim until you can feel their fear and
you are at that crime scene with them."
He has lost
only one appeal on behalf of a victim's
family. It haunts him. "It's
pretty sad when the families tell you to
let it go," he said.
The idea for his Web site, FindMissingKids.com,
came to Vinocur five years ago, after several
girls across the country were kidnapped
and murdered. He started looking on the
Internet and was surprised that he couldn't
find much information on missing children.
He learned as he went along and became
interested in parole cases as he saw that
some sexual predators were being released
"I had a business degree from OSU
in finance. There's no such thing as a
degree in victim advocacy," he said.
Today, his Web site gets 1,000 hits a day
-- more when he is collecting signatures
on petitions to fight paroles.
His first big case was Laura Skinner,
a 3-year-old who was raped and murdered
by her mother's boyfriend.
No one spoke up to keep Laura's murderer
in prison. So Vinocur got the General Assembly
to pass Laura's Law, which required the
state to post upcoming parole hearings
on the Internet.
His new law would require the Parole Board
to attempt to notify every family about
impending releases, this after victims
told Vinocur they ran into their child's
murderer on the street or read about the
release in a newspaper.
Officer William Brown
Often, Vinocur phones families to offer
Debbie Brown Hurst said her family was
close to giving up fighting the parole
of her father's murderer when Vinocur called.
Lima Police Officer William Brown had a
wife and seven children when a gas-station
robber shot him at age 33.
"We had two weeks to fight the release.
I didn't know what to do," Hurst said. "Then
Bret phoned me. I thought he was a nut.
I said, 'How much is this going to cost?'
He said, 'Not a penny.'
Bret came into our hearing with four
folders full of e-mails from
people who were against the release, that
really meant the world to us."
Ross Caudill drew another five years in
prison. Vinocur will help Hurst again in
Brenda Pennewitt, whose 19-year-old brother
was stabbed 72 times, said Vinocur has
become a brother to her. It was her appeal
that marked Vinocur 's single loss. The
murderer was set free after 25 years in
"When I got to the point when I said,
'I just can't fight anymore,' he said,
'That's OK, I'll do it for you,' " said
Pennewitt, of Hilliard. "He's my angel."
Andrea Carson, a spokeswoman for the Ohio
Department of Rehabilitation and Correction,
said the parole board does consider the
information Vinocur presents about crimes.
"There are citizens who often come
and meet with our Office of Victim Services
on behalf of victims, but he is definitely
one of the most passionate advocates we've
seen in recent years," Carson said.
Vinocur traces his empathy to a former
girlfriend whose mother was murdered in
a robbery shortly after the woman successfully
"The pain in that family has stuck
with me forever," he said. "I
really wish I could do more for this."
his employer heard of his work and gave
him $4,500 to continue his mission. "It
was a great fit for us," said Randy
Randolph, chairman of the Safelite Charitable
Foundation, which supports children's issues.
Still, Vinocur takes hundreds of dollars
a year out of his pocket to run his Web
site, photocopy documents and buy gasoline.
He drives to each child's grave before
a parole-board hearing.
He tells them, "I'm sorry" and "I
won't let this happen again."
who abuse information
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