Jul. 22—LAWRENCE — A man sent to prison to serve 10 life sentences in 2004 for murdering a young girl in a violent home invasion was granted parole by a state board.
Francis Sepulveda pleaded guilty to the second degree murder of 7-year-old Eva Rojas in 1994 in addition to numerous other felonies, including armed assault in a dwelling, stealing by putting into confining or fear and armed robbery.
He spent seven years on the run before his capture in New York City.
When he pleaded guilty, Sepulveda was given 10 life sentences — with the possibility of parole — along with other state prison sentences. They were all to be served concurrently.
Sepulveda and three other men committed the armed home invasion at a Lawrence apartment building on Sept. 11, 1994.
Records show that they tied up a man, his wife and their daughter, and the girl suffocated from having both her nose and mouth taped shut.
Now 52 years old, Sepulveda went before the parole board on Dec. 14, 2021, his second attempt at being released. He was denied after his first appearance in 2017.
The parole board on June 15 ruled he was a "suitable candidate for parole," according to a written decision. It cites the nature of the offense, Sepulveda's age at the time — 24 years old — his criminal and institution records, his testimony at his hearing and public input.
According to the decision, Sepulveda will now spend six months in lower security at the prison. He can then be released to a long-term residential program.
There he must abide by a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, wear an electronic monitoring device, abstain from drugs and alcohol and undergo testing, have no contact with his accomplices or victims in the case, undergo mental health counseling and attend Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings three times per week.
The board also noted that while Sepulveda was incarcerated, he took advantage of a variety of prison programs. He also obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree.
A previous parole board decision indicated that Sepulveda was taking college courses through Boston University. He said he wanted to pursue a degree in urban planning.
A psychologist told board members at Sepulveda's December hearing that the inmate "is a low risk to reoffend," and "believes he could positively contribute to society."
During the deadly home invasion 28 years ago, Sepulveda and accomplices went to the third-floor Lawrence apartment armed with a baseball bat and rifle. When a man answered, they rushed in and overpowered him, according to parole board records.
They tied up the man, his wife and daughter and duct-taped their mouths. Then, with Sepulveda guarding the victims on the third floor, the other men broke into the first floor apartment. Someone there was shot five times but survived, according to the records.
When asked why he fled to New York and hid for seven years, Sepulveda said he was afraid and acted like a coward, according to records from the 2017 parole board hearing.
He told the board he was physically and sexually abused as a child. At 15 years old he dropped out of school due to the abuse and soon began abusing alcohol, marijuana and cocaine. At the time of the murder, records show that Sepulveda was living with his girlfriend and selling drugs.
Staff reporter Julie Manganis contributed to this story.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.