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The Boston Globe

Metro

Kevin Cullen

Speaking for a dead sister

It has become a somber ritual, every five years, a ritual that Hilary Troia and her sisters Lauren and Robin dread but which they observe faithfully because they have to.

Every five years, John Tammaro comes up for parole, and every five years Hilary Troia and her sisters drive out to the squat office building off Route 9 in Natick where they hold parole hearings and speak for the one sister who can’t speak for herself.

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“It’s the last thing in the world we want to do,” Hilary Troia says. “But we do it for Leslie.”

Leslie Ann Haynes was 20 years old, a college student from Cohasset, when Tammaro pumped four bullets into her head because she broke up with him after they had dated for a few months.

That was 31 years ago. But for Leslie’s sisters, it was like yesterday, because it still hurts and hurts even more to think the man who murdered her could walk out of prison.

“We feel it’s our duty and responsibility to go every five years, to make sure this man is not released,” Hilary Troia said. “We are not vindictive. We believe in redemption. But we do not believe this man should be released from prison because we don’t believe he can be rehabilitated.”

Tammaro actually was released from prison, in 2005, and he went right back to doing what he did to Leslie Ann Haynes, stalking women who were members of a gym in Boston where he worked. That landed him back in prison five years ago.

Hilary Troia says, in hindsight, that the biggest mistake her family made in their grief was agreeing to let Tammaro plead guilty to second-degree murder, to avoid the agony of a trial. Had he gone to trial and been convicted of first-degree murder, he would have been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

There certainly was enough evidence to show clear premeditation on Tammaro’s part. After Leslie Haynes went back to college in Colorado, Tammaro flew out there twice, uninvited, stalking her, begging her to take him back.

She came home for Christmas in 1982, and one night Tammaro was waiting for her in the bushes outside her house with a gun. He jumped into her car and told her to drive. He told the cops that he had intended to shoot himself, but the only person who got shot that night was Leslie Haynes, slaughtered in her car.

Tammaro is asking to be released so he can live with his mother. That was the same plan in 2005, when he was first released, over the Haynes family’s objections, and soon started prowling through the gym’s database for personal information.

There is nothing that will convince Leslie Haynes’s sisters that John Tammaro has suddenly found a compass that will keep him from being a predator. Before he murdered Leslie Haynes, he beat up a woman he was dating.

“In our hearts, it’s important to forgive, so we can move on,” Hilary Troia said. “But he’s not proven he is safe around people. He may have a good prison record, but I don’t think he’ll ever be able to function outside an institutional setting.”

John Tammaro murdered Leslie Haynes six days before Christmas, so the holidays are always bittersweet for her family. They have a Mass said for her on her birthday and on the anniversary of her death.

“I look at my own girls and my nieces, and I see Leslie in all of them,” Hilary Troia said, as she prepared for that long drive out Route 9 on Tuesday.

Those girls share a middle name: Leslie.

“I look at them and I think, ‘What would Leslie’s children look like?’ And when I think about Leslie, about the life she didn’t have, that’s why as much as I hate going to the Parole Board every five years, I’ll do it forever.”

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com.

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