TANEYTOWN, Md. - It's been just 11 months since a drunk driver hit and killed Towson student Matthew Cheswick in Ocean City. But already the man convicted for negligent homicide in the case is up for parole. Now Cheswick's friends and family are fighting to stop the man's release.
A three-page letter that showed up in last week's mail is the latest dose of heartbreak for the family of Matthew Cheswick. His father, Christopher Cheswick, says, "Just another piece of my heart ripped out."
The letter brings more anguish for Cheswick and Matthew's mother, Cecilia Roe. The pair is still grieving the loss of the boy with the brilliant smile and even brighter future. 22-year-old Matthew was killed in a hit and run accident in Ocean City last Memorial Day weekend. The letter they received let them know the man behind the wheel is already up for a chance at parole. Cheswick says, "He was trying to get out almost from the instant he got in."
31-year-old Diogo Facchini, of Virginia, was drunk according to police when he hit Matthew on Coastal Highway and kept on driving. After taking a plea deal, Facchini was sentenced to five years back in November. Just four months later, he's getting his first shot at freedom. But not if Matthew's friends have anything to do with it. One of his closest friends, Carl Braun, started an online petition protesting Facchini's parole. He says, "This is the only thing that feels right. It feels right to stand up for him."
Braun's petitionhad more than 1,500 signatures Monday afternoon, after just five days online. He says, "I don't even know what to say about it. It gives me chills to see so much support."
Braun says the support has come in from people who knew Matthew and from strangers, all of whom are outraged Facchini could potentially be set free. Braun says Matthew was the kind of friend who would do anything for anyone and now he's trying to do something in return by making a statement about Facchini, "He was given five years and that's barely anything for the crime that he did. And he looks to get out already? It's not right."
Maryland's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services says, legally, the crime Facchini pleaded to is not considered a crime of violence. And a spokeswoman tells ABC2 even if Facchini is granted parole, he will still have to serve at least a quarter of his sentence. That would mean he remains behind bars for at least another year.
Court records show Facchini asked for a reduction in sentence just one month after it was handed down. That request was denied by a judge.
Chris Cheswick and Cecilia Roe have until May to respond to the letter about Facchini's parole hearing. Both say they'll request an open proceeding and would like to speak. No date has been set. But as Matthew's parents wait, they're focusing on the positive, including a memorial fund in Matthew's honor.
The Matthew Cheswick Memorial Fund had already raised more than $5,000. Some of those funds were used to purchase a memorial bench in Ocean City. Roe says the remaining money will be used to fund scholarships at Glen Elg High School as well as school programs aimed at reducing teenage drinking. Donations to the fund can be made through the school. Roe says checks can be made out to Glen Elg High School, with the "Matthew Cheswick Memorial Fund" listed on the subject line.