Every two years, Chad Campbell comes up for parole. As soon as he is denied parole for the double, brutal murders in August of 1990 of Cindy Lewis, his 15-year-old Palmyra-Macedon Central School district classmate, and Curtis Rizzo, the 17-month-old boy she was babysitting, the process for the victim’s families begins all over again.
It was a hot August week when Cindy and Curtis went missing. The community held its breath in the days before the bodies were discovered. Chad Campbell, 14 years old at the time, even helped in the search for the two children. He quickly became a suspect and eventually told State Police Investigator David Gould (Retired from State Police and current Cayuga County Sheriff) 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 Cindy Lewis and 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 told investigators that he had lured Cindy to the location with a phone call saying it was urgent she meet him.
“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 there 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.
The ensuing 1991 trial included allegations of Satanic worship and the suggestion by Campbell’s defense attorney that perhaps others were involved in the slaying of Cynthia and Rizzo. The case tore apart the Palmyra-Macedon community as sides were taken and rumors spread like wildfire.
Upon his conviction, Chad Campbell was sentenced to life in prison. He was initially sent to juvenile confinement until he reached adulthood, then transferred to State prison.
Though he has been eligible for parole six times since 2008, Campbell has previously been denied an early release because, according to the parole board, has shown no remorse for these heinous crimes.
Since 2008, the Wayne County District Attorney’s Office, along with a host of local politicians, family of the victims and the community at large, through petition drives, have kept Campbell safely behind bars.
State Senator Pam Helming led the latest drive, securing over 900 names, along with comments, to stop any possibility of release.
Helming’s petition drive stalled Chad’s 2018 May hearing until the parole board had a chance to review the petition and comments.
Chad’s hearing was again delayed until February of 2019, due to a legal issue.
The decision to deny parole was finally handed down two weeks ago on August 12.
Elaine Hartnagle, Curtis Rizzo’s grandmother, said she and the other victim’s families have already begun to drive to mount a petition and drive to keep Campbell behind bars at the next parole hearing in May, 2020.
Helming said she has worked with Elaine Hartnagel to support bills in the State Senate that would help victims and their families during parole board hearings.
One measure would lengthen the time between parole hearings from two years to five years to give grieving families “a greater period of peace” before having to relive their tragedies while testifying at the next hearing.
Another measure, Helming continued, would allow all family members and others to make statements during hearings to create what she said would be “a more open and fair process for victims’ families and all those affected by the crime.” For example, she said, grandparents such as Hartnagel cannot speak before the Parole Board.
The Times has learned that Campbell had written letters to both of the victim’s mothers, Curtis’s mother Carol Bauer and Cindy’s mother, Nancy Lewis back in 2018. In the letters Campbell apologizes for what he did and the impact on the families. “He said he feels real bad about it everyday, that’s bullshit,”said in Nancy. “In the letter he called her daughter Cynthia. Nobody ever called her Cynthia, it was always Cindy. Either he was coached to write the letter, or somebody else wrote it.”