Parole for repo man killer deferred 5 years

Posted at 10:00 PM, Jan 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-20 00:00:57-05

A jury sentenced Robert Willner, 64, to life in prison for first-degree murder almost 25 years ago.

Former Governor Bill Ritter commuted that sentence in 2011.

Tuesday, for the first time, Willner appeared before a parole board to have his case heard, and the family of the man killed begged for justice.

Chris Harris was 2-years-old when his father was murdered, but the pain is still raw.

"You know, it's starting to take a toll," said Harris, tears in his eyes. "I didn't get to know my father. It's been hard."

Even harder, he said, on this day, as he and his family walk to a parole hearing for a man they thought would never get out of prison.

In 1990, his father, Steve Morgan, had just started moonlighting with a repo company.

When he went to a home in Littleton to repossess Willner's truck, Willner ran outside and opened fire, killing Morgan.

A jury sentenced Willner to life in prison and the Colorado Supreme Court later upheld that decision.

But in 2011, Governor Ritter shortened that sentence, to make Ritter eligible for parole starting December 2015.

"For 25 years, he has done everything right -- what more can he do?" ask Terry Tron, Willner's sister, who spoke at his hearing on Tuesday. "He is a changed man. I know he is not a threat."

Willner has not had a single conduct violation since he has been in prison and has received his Bachelor's degree and paralegal certification.

"I just hope he can get released and come live with us in California and stop being a burden on the state of Colorado," said Tron, who said he brother has had one shoulder replacement surgery and will soon have to have another one.

But for the family of Steve Morgan, not enough time has passed.

"Yeah, I'm glad he's reformed," said Harris. "But guess what, I'm not reformed. I've had to live without a dad."

The parole board agreed Tuesday, deferring Willner's parole for five more years. 

"At least we get to be able to live for the next four-and-a-half years. And then, we got to start this all over again," said Harris."

Denver7 requested an interview with Willner, but the Department of Corrections could not arrange it Tuesday.

In the hearing, Willner finally admitted that he had lied in court and never thought that Steve Morgan was trying to run him over with the truck.

However, he also claimed he fired at the truck to scare and never intended to kill.

"He still won't admit he was trying to kill my husband," said Wendy Brown, Steve Morgan's widow. "It's sad that we have to keep going through this."