Then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm reflects on her past eight years in office during a year-end interview Dec. 10, 2010, at the state Capitol in Lansing.
Updated: Thursday, 23 Dec 2010, 9:16 PM EST
Published : Thursday, 23 Dec 2010, 8:11 PM EST
DETROIT (AP) - Relatives of a 19-year-old Detroit-area man fatally stabbed during a robbery in 1988 said Thursday they are shocked that Gov. Jennifer Granholm agreed to release a convicted killer from prison, despite a life sentence for first-degree murder.
Anthony Puma said he and his siblings were never told that Matthew Makowski was seeking to have his sentence commuted and were unaware of an October public hearing by the Michigan parole board.
"Our family is appalled, devastated," Puma, 38, of Southgate said Thursday, a day after Granholm followed the recommendation of the parole board.
"I don't even know how this could happen. I thought life with no parole was life with no parole," Puma said.
Pietro "Pete" Puma was fatally stabbed during a robbery in Dearborn. Authorities say Makowski did not participate in the attack but arranged the cash robbery with two other people.
Makowski knew the victim and was at the hospital when he died, Anthony Puma said.
"That guy used to play basketball in my backyard," Anthony Puma said. "He was sitting with my mom and my father crying at the hospital and wondering how someone could do this to Pete Puma. He was holding my mother's hand — who would do such a thing?"
Corrections Department spokesman Russ Marlan said the Puma family should have been notified about Makowski's commutation request if their contact information was up to date. Because state government was closed, he had no access to details in the case Thursday. Parole hearings are posted in advance on the department's website.
"Why would we register? It was life with no parole. I don't think my parents were on a registry," Anthony Puma said.
In response to the family's comments, the governor's office was checking to determine "if and why" relatives were not notified about the hearing and the commutation process, spokeswoman Katie Carey said.
Makowski, now 43, has been in prison for more than 20 years. He will remain in custody for several weeks until his parole is processed.
Marlan said the parole board likely was influenced by Makowski's good record in prison and the fact that he didn't stab the victim. At least eight members, a majority, voted to recommend that his sentence be commuted to time served.
Pete Puma's sister, Constance Puma, 51, of Portage, said Makowski was arrested after giving a eulogy at her brother's funeral and promising to find the killer.
"This is a crime. This is a tragedy," she said of Makowski's release. "My mother is rolling over in her grave right now."
The Wayne County prosecutor's office opposed the release.
"Our sympathy certainly goes out to the family of the victim that believed the defendant's conviction ensured that he would remain in prison for the rest of his life," spokeswoman Maria Miller said.
Anthony Puma said his deceased brother was one of six siblings. Their parents are deceased.
"If he didn't mastermind this, my brother would not have been killed," Anthony Puma said of Makowski.
Johnnie Fleming, who was convicted of stabbing Pete Puma, is serving a life sentence. Another man charged in the case was paroled in 1993.