'Mall rapist' tries again for parole

Phillip Pizzo

PEABODY — Phillip Pizzo spoke in a rapid monotone about why he should be released on parole after 35 years in prison. 

"I only imagine their pain and fear," Pizzo, 70, told the Parole Board Thursday about the seven women he admitted kidnapping from area shopping malls in the early 1980s, then raping and tormenting them at his home. "I can only imagine their pain and try to put myself in their shoes."

He rattled off a list of programs he's completed and spoke of his support on the outside: a brother in Winchester, where he grew up; another in Brighton; a cousin and her husband; and a psychologist who treated him at Bridgewater and who is now in private practice. 

"You really do come off as mechanical and a little bit rehearsed," suggested Parole Board member Gloriann Moroney. "These were horrific, horrific crimes." 

But by the end of the nearly two-hour hearing, Pizzo was animated, admitting he was frustrated and angry that board members were pressing him about a series of other unsolved rapes from that era. Those rapes he denies committing, even as he has previously acknowledged that he had other victims besides the seven for which he was charged. 

"I don't like to sound defensive," said Pizzo, "but these are offenses I did not commit."

"It's all speculation," he said. "I admitted the crimes I committed." 

Pizzo is serving 11 concurrent life terms for the early 1980s series of kidnappings, sexual assaults and robberies, crimes for which he was dubbed "The Mall Rapist." 

Thursday's hearing, conducted via teleconference, was Pizzo's third try for release. 

Pizzo was in his 30s and living in Westford at the time of the rapes, between the summer of 1983 and January 1984, when he was identified and arrested.

The crimes left women throughout the area in fear of going shopping alone.

Two of Pizzo's victims were kidnapped from the parking lot of what was then called Northshore Shopping Center. One was a college student doing some Christmas shopping. The other woman was leaving her job at the Jordan Marsh bakery.

Pizzo also grabbed victims from the Southshore Plaza, the Woburn and Natick malls and Meadow Glen Mall in Medford.

As he has during prior hearings, Pizzo blamed low self-esteem, a recent breakup, and an "overbearing mother." 

But board members pointed out statements he's made saying he only dated women who initiated contact, and that he wasn't happy in the relationships. If that was the case, why was he so angry about the breakup? 

And he was asked to square comments he'd made about men being the rulers of the house and women being submissive when he was growing up, with his complaints about his "overbearing" mother and aunt. 

One of his victims told the board she thinks every day of what happened to her almost 30 years ago. 

"I don't think Mr. Pizzo should get released," she said. "The reason why is I've been watching (the hearing) and I don't believe, I think he may believe he's rehabilitated, but I don't think he's grasped what he's done to his victims and I'm not sure he ever can." 

The woman said she still has to take medication and deals with fear and worry. "I worry obsessively over my kids," she said. "He took away a lot." 

The six hours she was held captive, raped, tortured, and thrown into a pool when she couldn't swim, haunt her. 

"I would be worried," she said. "I would be fearful."

Two veteran prosecutors, Adrienne Lynch from Middlesex County and Elin Graydon from Essex County, also spoke against Pizzo's release. 

When Pizzo went to prison in the 1980s, there was no sex offender registry.

"I don't know that Mr. Pizzo has a real appreciation for what it will be like when he is on the outside," Lynch said. "He will have to register as a sex offender." People will know what he did. "His feelings of low self-esteem and anger would be aroused by that kind of reception after so many years," she suggested. 

"He can speak what he thinks people want to hear, but it's hard to pick up any genuine remorse or sincerity," she added. 

Graydon, who attended Pizzo's two prior parole hearings, expressed skepticism about Pizzo's "newfound realization" that alcohol is an issue. She said nothing in his records confirms his claims of weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Beyond that, Pizzo repeatedly told the board he would never drink again.  

"His statements over and over again today that he'd never drink again are highly unrealistic and suggest he's not understood the lessons of AA and that it is 'a day at a time,' and you cannot predict long term what you will do," said Graydon. "I think it's a very significant danger sign." 

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis. 

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