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Man convicted in Iowa City death freed from prison

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- A man who beat an elderly Iowa City man to death after a night of heavy drinking has been freed from prison and ordered into work release by the Iowa Board of Parole after deliberations about to how best to balance his model behavior in prison versus the nature of his crime.

Curtis Fry, 24, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the Feb. 7, 2008, death of Patrick McEwen. Prosecutors said Fry was highly intoxicated after a night of drinking with friends in downtown Iowa City when he broke into the 78-year-old man's apartment and beat him to death. Fry was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

The parole board on Wednesday ordered Fry to a work release prison in Johnson County. After work release, he will take part in an intensive parole and must complete 120 days of community, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported Thursday.

"There's a life that has been taken for no good reason, and if you stay in prison, guess what? You're alive," parole board chairwoman Elizabeth Robinson said. "Your parents can see you. This poor man lived a humble life not bothering anybody until you beat him to death."

Fry continued to express remorse for his crime. He was asked by the parole board what he would tell McEwen if given the opportunity.

"I think the number one thing is just apologize with all my heart and let him know there's no way I would intentionally do it," Fry said.

Fry was described as a "model offender" by a Department of Corrections officer and was commended by the officer and parole board for completing several programs in prison, working in the prison's clothing department and helping put together a band for the prison's volunteer banquet.

In April, the parole board denied Fry parole.

At Wednesday's hearing, Robinson asked Fry if he thought he was a victim after the board received an email from the state public defender's office in Iowa City expressing dissatisfaction with not being given an opportunity to speak at April's hearing.

Robinson said she did not blame Fry for the actions of his attorney, but warned him the email could have cost him.

Fry's attorney, Peter Persaud, said his office contacted the parole board after the April meeting because they were concerned the board only heard about the "horrible" crime Fry committed and not the positive things that he has done since being imprisoned. Persaud added that when he was told he couldn't speak in Des Moines, he asked to make a statement from Iowa City or at least view the proceedings from there and was denied by the board.

"No way did we indicate Curtis was the victim," Persaud said.

Rabbi Jeff Portman of Iowa City said Wednesday if McEwen had survived the attack, McEwen might have forgiven Fry.

"He would have forgiven you, only if he and we were convinced you meant it," said Portman, who did not attend the parole hearing, but spoke after learning of the outcome.