Officials Push for Lighter Case Load for Parole Officers

By Michael Hill

Candles, cuddly teddy bears and colorful balloons mark the scene of where a sex offender — 58-year-old Brian Farmer — allegedly murdered a mother and her foster child in Long Branch.

“We have to make sure that our most vulnerable are protected, especially our children,” said Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo.

Mercer County Assemblyman DeAngelo has introduced a bill to decrease the number of sex offenders per parole officer.

Farmer’s parole officer had about 60 offenders under his supervision.

DeAngelo says that’s too much and 40 is much more manageable.

“That’s the concern. Parole officers are only human. There’s only so much they can accomplish in a day without things slipping through the crack. And they’re doing the best that they can,” he said.

The state parole board says it’s reviewing what happened in the case of Brian Farmer but it does not appear anything was done wrong by his parole officer.

The board’s executive director says Farmer lost his plumber’s job July 28 and his board approved a place to live and had phone contact with his parole officer. But, between July 28 and July 31, Farmer had no contact with that parole officer.

According to the parole board, Farmer told his parole officer between July 28 and July 31, he was living with a male cousin in Long Branch. It’s information the parole board says it has never verified. In that same time frame, July 30 to be exact, Farmer is accused of strangling his 62-year-old cousin Joan Colbert and her 10-year-old foster daughter after Colbert allegedly caught Farmer taking pornographic pictures of the 10-year-old girl, a girl with whom Farmer was supposed to have no contact whatsoever.

Parole Board Executive Director Dave Thomas calls the crime “a tragic situation,” but says he doesn’t know where Farmer was between July 28 and July 31.

Farmer served his full sentence of 13 years for aggravated assault of a teenaged girl in the mid 1990s. He was released in 2009. He’s in the Monmouth County Jail right now with a $2.5 million bail, charged with murder and violating his lifetime supervision by failing to refrain from initiating, establishing or maintaining contact with any minor, failing to reside at an approved residence and failing to reside with a minor.

A friend of Colbert says after the crimes, Farmer still came around the neighborhood as if nothing had ever happened. She said Farmer attended the funeral of Colbert and the daughter at Second Baptist Church in Long Branch. And she said, “What kind of monster was amongst us?”

In January, the state auditor released a report about the parole board and summarized, “The state parole board supervision requirements are not being completed within established time frames which could result in an increased risk to the public and a reduced likelihood that the offender will achieve long-term behavioral reform.”

“Not only were they not getting to the different levels of supervision they were supposed to be getting to — face-to-face, home visits — but actually some of the more serious offenders were actually some of our highest exception rates and that was concerning to us,” said State Auditor Stephen Eells.

“That’s why we introduced the bill. We agree. We feel that this is the right direction for us to go. We feel we should implement this ASAP, as soon as possible, to prevent any incidents,” DeAngelo said.

DeAngelo says he knows there are budget concerns in New Jersey but passage of his bill should be a priority and the double murder here is a strong impetus to get it done.