HAVERHILL — It was a case that went unsolved for more than a decade.
Hairdresser Beverly Autiello, 30, was murdered in her Haverhill home in the early morning hours of April 9, 1977. Investigators believed the killer’s weapon was an ax.
Autiello’s 4-year-old daughter was the only witness, but she was severely beaten. Because of the girl’s injuries and her age, she was unable to help police identify her mom’s killer.
The case went cold until 1989, when investigators were able to link Autiello’s death to Gary Lee Colby, who was then living in Virginia. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
But now Colby is about to go free, after spending 23 years behind bars.
The Massachusetts Parole Board voted unanimously May 13 to grant Colby his release. Caitlin Casey, the parole board’s chief of staff, said Colby is set to be released as soon as he completes a prerelease cognitive behavioral program and the Virginia Department of Corrections approves his new residence. Colby plans to live in Roanoke, Virginia, with his wife, Mary Ellen Colby, the board’s decision said.
As of yesterday, Colby was still in prison, Casey said. The terms of his parole require that he live in Virginia for the rest of his life and that he may only leave that state with permission from his parole officer, Casey said.
Colby, now 65, was sentenced in 1991 to life in prison, with the possibility of parole after 15 years, for beating Autiello to death and violently assaulting her 4-year-old daughter, Gina Marie Autiello, after breaking into their home. The young girl witnessed her mother’s murder and spent 10 days in the hospital recovering from injuries she suffered in the attack.
Autilello, a widow and hairstylist, died 90 minutes after she was found beaten in her home at 24 Fairlawn Ave.