At each hearing, commissioners cited the jury’s verdict at his 1993 trial, where Mr. Gordon was convicted of shooting Dr. Pack during what prosecutors said was a fight over thousands of dollars they had invested together in rare baseball cards. Parole commissioners quoted Judge John Sweeny Jr.’s comments at sentencing that Mr. Gordon’s defense had offered “a concocted story of a homosexual argument … that underscored the coldblooded and ruthless nature of this crime.” As he sent Mr. Gordon to prison, the judge told him he “did not deserve to walk free in society ever again.”
These days Mr. Gordon walks with a slight shuffle. Guards at Fishkill refer to him as “old man Gordon.” He is on his second pacemaker and spent several weeks in the hospital last winter. A short, trim man, he still carries some of the military bearing he acquired while serving two combat tours with the Air Force in Vietnam.
The military taught him computer skills, and in civilian life he found work at large corporations. While living in California in the 1970s, he married a woman and had a son. They separated when the child was not yet 2. Mr. Gordon moved back east and settled in Elmsford, where he grew up. Chad remained with his mother in California, visiting his dad on holidays.
Mr. Gordon began trading baseball cards, he said, in a bid to draw closer to his son, who was a fan. In 1991, however, Chad forged a grade on his school report card, and his parents decided he should live with his father for a while. Mr. Gordon enrolled him in a Catholic high school and put him to work in the afternoons at the sports memorabilia shop he operated in Rockland County. It was on one of those afternoons, Dec. 20, 1991, Mr. Gordon said in an interview at the prison, that he asked his son to wait at home to hand off a package of money and cards to Dr. Pack, with whom he had been investing in collectible baseball cards over the previous year.
After dropping off his son at the house, Mr. Gordon, recalling the story he told the parole board, said he drove to his shop to find several anguished messages on his answering machine from Chad begging him to come home. He raced back to find his son in the basement, Dr. Pack’s body nearby. “Chad couldn’t talk,” he said. “Neither could I.” His actions over the next hours, he said, were driven by panic over what would happen to his son if he was arrested. “I saw him going through every ugly scene in every prison movie I’d ever watched,” he said. He remembers also thinking that while his son couldn’t handle prison, an ex-soldier might be able to.
Though his lawyers would outright accuse Chad of killing the doctor at the trial, Mr. Gordon had never wanted to say it out loud himself. Arrested and charged with murder, Mr. Gordon refused to take the stand. “I was not going to be compelled to testify against my son,” he explained. “I was not going to put my son in prison.”
The prosecution presented the case as a simple fight over money. District Attorney James Rooney argued that on the day he was killed, Dr. Pack had gone to Mr. Gordon’s house to confront him over some $70,000 he had invested in baseball cards. Dr. Pack, the prosecutor said, “never got a penny” from his investment. Although there was no evidence that the men had previously quarreled, Mr. Rooney said that rather than pay him back, Mr. Gordon killed him that day in his own home.