Joshua Halbert, convicted of a Gloucester murder at age 17, is being denied parole for a second time.

Halbert, now 48, is not suitable for parole, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security's Parole Board voted unanimously last week. 

"The board is of the opinion that Mr. Halbert has not demonstrated a level of rehabilitative progress that would make his release compatible with the welfare of society," the board wrote in its ruling. "He was recently forthright as to his culpability in the commission of the brutal murder. He should continue to avail himself rehabilitation to address his causative factors." 

The causative factors considered by the board when weighing an inmate's suitability for parole include lack of maturity, an underdeveloped sense of responsibility leading to recklessness, impulsivity, and heedless risk-taking; vulnerability to negative influences and outside pressures, including from family and peers; limited control over his own environment; lack of the ability to extricate himself from horrific, crime-producing settings; and a unique capacity to change as he grows older.

When 17-year-old Halbert was found guilty on Feb. 7 1989 of taking part in beating, choking, suffocating and stabbing 38-year-old David McLane to death in his Gloucester home in September 1988, he was sentenced in Essex County Superior Court to life in prison without parole. 

Twenty-four years later, Halbert became eligible for parole when the state's Supreme Judicial Court issued a decision that life without the possibility of parole is invalid as applied to juveniles convicted of first-degree murder.

The court's decision made all inmates who had committed a crime as juveniles eligible for parole. 

Halbert's first parole hearing in November 2014 also proved unsuccessful for the Gloucester resident. 

Halbert, who was 25 days short of his 18th birthday at the time of the crime, was remorseful during his second appearance before the Parole Board in a hearing held Nov. 6, 2018. According to court testimony, the inmate apologized to McLane's family and his own, stating that each day, he thinks about the "devastating effect" his actions have had on both, as well as the Gloucester community at large.  

During this hearing, Halbert admitted that he "was the initiator" of the crime and clarified that he had "acted out of rage, having experienced childhood trauma and a sexual assault by man prior to the murder." He explained that he had chosen McLane as his victim because McLane was a homosexual. 

He claimed to have no intention of ever killing McLane.

The board questioned Halbert on why it took him so long to confess to the crime, the impact of his age during the crime, and two disciplinary reports that took place during his incarceration. 

Halbert's rehabilitation efforts have included one-on-one and group therapy, Alcoholic Anonymous, Men'sWork, Correctional Recovery Academy, Violence Reduction, and working with American Vet dogs. He was also the caregiver to a disabled veteran, an experience, the inmate expressed, that has taught him "patience" and "how to be a better friend to someone."

Kevin Pierce and John Nichypor were also involved in the McLane's murder.  Nichypor, who was 17 at the time of the murder, was paroled last year. Pierce, who was 18, cannot seek parole under the 2013 SJC ruling, and is serving a life sentence without parole and

The board has scheduled a review of the Halbert's case in three years from his latest hearing, which was on Nov. 6, 2018. 

Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-338-2527 or tbradford@northofboston.com.

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