Rafael Robb, a former University of Pennsylvania professor imprisoned for killing his wife in 2006, has been denied early release by the state parole board, the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office announced Monday.

The board's decision means Robb will serve his full 10-year sentence for the death of Ellen Gregory Robb. But her family is still concerned about the fact that Robb will be free in January, at the end of his sentence.

"Our goal is clearly to make sure that his probation terms are of the strictest and tightest that they should be for a violent offender of this nature," Gary Gregory, Ellen Robb's brother, said at a news conference Monday.

Robb reached a plea deal and was sentenced to five to 10 years for bludgeoning his wife to death as she wrapped Christmas gifts in their Upper Merion Township home in 2006.

Ellen Robb's family has fought against his early release for years. Former Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman and State Rep. Mike Vereb (R., Montgomery) advocated for a change in state law in 2013 after learning that Robb could be granted early release. As a result, families now are able to meet with the parole board, and the board reversed its decision in Robb's case.

After serving their minimum sentence, offenders are eligible to apply for parole once a year. Ellen Robb's family again met with the parole board in February. The board decided in March that Robb would not be released before the end of his 10-year sentence in January.

"Justice was served by declining the inmate's request for an early release and keeping Rafael Robb behind bars until next year," District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said.

Robb will have 10 years of supervised probation after his prison term is over.

Steele said Monday he remains concerned by Robb's "continued unrepentance."

His wife's family sued him and won a $124 million award to Ellen Robb's estate. The family said the money would go to the couple's daughter, Olivia. Robb has continued to fight in court to shield nearly $2.8 million in retirement funds from going to his wife's estate.

Robert Mongeluzzi, who represented Ellen Robb's family in the civil lawsuit, said Monday that the fight over Robb's retirement funds continues to play out in appellate court.

Gregory said his family still thinks Robb should have been denied a plea deal, but takes comfort in knowing the family helped to change Pennsylvania law so that other victims' families can meet with the parole board. More than 4,000 victims and their family members have met with the board since the law changed, Pennsylvania victim advocate Jennifer Storm said Monday. Ellen Robb's family also started a foundation, Every Great Reason, to speak out against domestic violence.

"Once you're at the end of a line, you know there's nothing more you can do on that front," Gregory said of Robb's impending release from prison. "The anguish will exist, but the gratitude is that we turned this horrific situation into a positive. And so that's comfort and solace as we move forward."

lmccrystal@phillynews.com

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