Convicted Palmyra killer Chad Campbell told State Police Investigator David Gould that he started off killing animals. “Once I heard that, I knew he was capable of murder,” said Gould. A short time later Campbell admitted killing 15 year-old classmate Cindy Lewis and the 17 month old child she was babysitting, Curtis Rizzo. He eventually led police to where he threw the murder weapon, a long knife, tossed about 25 yards from where the bodies were found, in a field behind the Palmyra-Macedon Middle School.
Campbell had lured Cindy to the location with a phone call and said it was urgent she meet him.
It will soon be 24 years since that August, 1990 double murder, but this case was particularly brutal. “Why he stabbed the baby is mind boggling. Why not just leave after he killed the girl. There was so much devil meanness in him,” remembered former State Police Investigator David Gould.
Gould recalled their was no remorse for the crime Campbell admitted to. “He was not mentally ill, he knew what he was doing,” recalled Gould. “It was not a heat of the moment crime, he had planned the whole thing out,” he added.
It was one of the first cases to shake the foundation of any semblance of community solidarity. People in Palmyra, familiar with all three families and relying on the rumor mill, were taking sides.
Soon, satanic overtones filtered into the discussions, and as a possible defense. Reasoning was beyond reason. No one understood how a schoolmate could murder a friend and a baby. It was long before the current malaise of student killings, appearing all too often in the news.
Rick Healy had become the County’s District Attorney on January 1st, 1991. Chad Campbell was 15 when his trail began in September of 1991, with Healy taking on the case.
The two week trial was fraught with emotion, accusations and possible other links to the crime. It eventually led to the death of another student by suicide, when the peer finger was pointed at him as being an accomplice.
In the end, the jury saw the true face of evil in Chad Campbell. He was sentenced as a juvenile to the maximum of nine years to life for each of the murders. Once he was old enough at age 18, he was transferred to a maximum adult prison.
Since that time, Campbell has acted as his own jail house attorney. He was eligible for parole the first time in 2008 and every two years since.
According to the latest parole hearing transcript on May 6th, Campbell was asked:
“Q. You raped and stabbed a 15 year old victim approximately 44 times, including slashing her throat. You also killed a 17 month old baby — A 17 month old victim that she was baby-sitting and that 17 month old was stabbed multiple times also ultimately having his throat slashed, is that generally accurate?
Campbell: Yes, sir….”
He went on to explain that he was having “a lot of problems emotionally”…” and that his mother had sent him for counseling. “What was going on in my life was a lot of problems at home with my parents and my family. I always took them I could never do anything right. Everything I did was wrong and that kind of built up. I had a little history of, I was scared of my parents, but I lashed out at other people because I saw them as weaker. That was my way of trying to make myself feel better. It was very irrational but I didn’t — I thought it would make me feel better to do, to hurt others and what not.
When asked why he called to have Cindy Lewis meet him in the field, Campbell responded:
“Chad: My mission was basically to rape and possibly kill, to be honest with you…”
The parole examiner asked Chad why, after he raped and killed Cindy, did he turn the violence towards the baby?
“Chad: “Curtis, which was the young boy, the baby’s name, he was crying and like I said I just, I wanted silence. I mean the noise, I was scared, adrenaline and I just, I just took a step or two over and I stabbed him. I mean he wasn’t doing anything, he was just an innocent like little boy and I had taken his life.”
Asked for any other comments before reaching a decision Campbell said:
“Chad: Yeah, I would just like to say that over my 23 years of being incarcerated, you know, I’ve had time to think about it, you know, what I’ve done. I don’t know how to express myself in words. I’m very nervous at this present time. I don’t come across like I should, but I just want to reiterate how sorry I am. I wish I could say I’m sorry to the victims and the families. I wish I could be forgiven but this was such a crime that I don’t think that’ll ever happen. You know, there’s been many nights where I’ve woken up like not knowing where I was and then I realized where I am and what I did to get here and that hurt me. The only thing I can do is change who I am.”
After due deliberation by the Parole Board Panel, the following decision was rendered:
“After a review of the record and interview, the panel has determined that if released at this time, there is a reasonable probability that you would not live and remain at liberty without again violating the law and your release would be incompatible with the welfare of society and would so deprecate the serious nature of the crime as to undermine respect for the law. The panel has considered your institutional adjustment including discipline and program participation Required statutory factors have been considered, including your risk to society, rehabilitation efforts, and your needs for successful re-entry into the community…”
Every time Curtis’ mother, Carol Hartnagel, grandmother, Elaine Hartnagel and Cindy Lewis’ mother, Nancy Lewis, have circulated petitions to present to the parole board, demanding Campbell never be released. Although they cannot appear at the actual parole procedure, the Hartnagel and Lewis families always meet with a parole board member to emphasize their resolve.
The first time, well over a thousand local residents signed the petition. The last parole hearing held May 6th, still had many of the same people signing, recalling that dark part of Palmyra Village history. “It is something I am going to do as long as I live,” stated Elaine Hartnagel. “No way do we want him out. He is a big threat to society and no one in town wants him out,” said Nancy Lewis.
When and if he is ever paroled, Chad said he would move back to Palmyra and live with his father and wife and “they are behind me 100%.” Chad had a prison wedding with a family friend and pen pal. He will be married for six years this August. He told the parole board he would like to go into some type of construction, possibly welding. He told the Board that he has attended “All my mandatory programs with numerous volunteer programs.
David Gould retired from the State Police in 2004 and was elected Sheriff of Cayuga County in 2006. He will be seeking his third term this year.
Nancy Lewis works for Walmart in Macedon and said she gets a “lot of support from her co-workers”.
District Attorney Rick Healy has been the Wayne County District Attorney since 1991 and will seek reelection again next year. He hopes to end his law career as a judge.
Curtis’ mother, Carol, is now a manager for NOCO convenience stores. After Curtis’ death, she had two daughters, Lynsey, now age 18 and Layney, age 14. Both daughters are aware of their half-brother’s death and the full history of the case against Chad Campbell.
Elaine Hartnagel said that a day does not go by when she does not think about the case, the brutality of Chad Campell, and she will work to keep him in prison for the rest of his life.
When informed of the latest parole board decision to deny Chad Campbell parole, Sheriff David Gould’s comment was “It’s a great thing.”