FRANKFORT — Fighting back tears in recounting the horrific, prolonged death of her 5-year-old stepsister, the lone witness pleaded with Kentucky parole board members to keep the killer, her mother, in prison.
Roxanne Suleski was up for parole this week after serving 25 years of a life sentence for the murder of Alex Suleski, who was a few days from turning 6 years old in 1989 when she was placed in one garbage bag and then another and left for dead at her Radcliff home.
Nyssa Corbin, whose testimony in 1993 put her mother and stepfather, Thomas Suleski, in cells, said at Monday's victim hearing that Roxanne Suleski is incapable of living in society.
"She's cold, unemotional and will manipulate whoever she needs to get what she wants," Corbin told the parole board. "She never had any sympathy for her own children and she only cares about herself. If she sees you, she will definitely lie to you."
Katherine Williams, public information officer for the Kentucky Department of Corrections, confirmed Monday afternoon that Suleski has waived her parole board hearing and elected to serve out the rest of her life sentence. She has until 11:50 a.m. Tuesday to change her mind.
At the hearing in front of four parole board members, Corbin recounted her young stepsister's death on Oct. 26, 1989.
Roxanne Suleski placed Alex inside of a garbage bag and tied it shut as punishment for the young girl wetting herself, Corbin said. Later that day, Suleski found Alex had defecated, which caused the mother to become even more enraged, according to Corbin, who was 12 years old at the time.
"She closed the bag, she rolled that bag into a second garbage bag, and closed the second garbage bag and tied it shut," Corbin told the parole board. "She was in her own filth, in darkness, and she saw (Roxanne Suleski) was the one who closed the bag and left her there."
Alex was dead the next day when Roxanne Suleski checked on her. Afterward, Thomas Suleski buried the body at nearby Otter Creek Park, FBI agent Phillip Lewzader said in his trial testimony in 1994. The father returned to the park two years later to dig up the remains. He found only the skull, smashed it, and scattered the remains outside Kentucky.
The Suleskis told police and the FBI that their daughter had gone outside and never returned. Her disappearance led to a search for the girl that spanned several years. Her smiling face became familiar to thousands of people throughout the region, state and country.
For four years, Corbin stayed quiet about Alex's death, only telling one of her younger sisters after three years. She said she was afraid of her mother, but thought that fear and abuse was normal. A spike in her mother's violent behavior toward Nyssa and her two sisters led the then 16-year-old to come forward.
"I was also entering an age where I was seeing from my friends and their homes that it wasn't the same as mine," she said in an interview Monday afternoon. "At that point, I began to understand something was wrong with my mother and what she was doing was not normal and not OK."
Corbin visited Roxanne Suleski in prison a few times; her husband suggested the visits could provide closure. Corbin, a mother of four who now lives in Woodstock, Ill., said Roxanne Suleski never showed any remorse or concern for what happened to Alex.
"In fact, she called me from the jail (five or six years ago) and asked me if I would recant my testimony so the Innocence Project might take her case. I refused, and she never called me again because I was no use to her," Corbin said in Monday's hearing.
If Roxanne Suleski were to be released from jail, Corbin would be concerned her mother would seek revenge, she said.
"It was my testimony that put her in prison where she belonged. My whole childhood, she modeled how revenge is very important to her and how people should receive payback for what they have done to her," Corbin said. "There is no doubt in my mind that if she's released, she would go after me, my sisters, or our families or our children. She doesn't have sympathy for anyone; not even children."
Roxanne Suleski, now 58, could stay in prison for the rest of her life.
Corbin said she was shocked and relieved to hear her mother waived her parole board hearing, but is unsure if her decision is "some sort of game."
With four kids ranging in ages 7 to 19, Corbin said she is moving on with her life in a positive and healthy environment. Her mother's actions have been a lesson for her.
"I think every single day, 'What would my mother do?' and then I do the exact opposite," Corbin said Monday afternoon.
She has not spoken to her stepfather since the end of the trial in 1994 and she is unsure if she will send a letter or speak at a victim's hearing for him later this month. "At this point, I don't know him well enough to know if he has been rehabilitated," she said.