INWOOD — Jason Minter was just 6 years old when three men held his mother down in the next room, raped her and murdered her 37 years ago.
Now, he's fighting to keep his mother's killers behind bars.
Minter, the owner of Inwood's Indian Road Cafe, has launched an online petition asking New York State to deny parole to Samuel Ayala, James Walls and Willie Profit, who were all sentenced to life in prison for the horrific March 2, 1977 rape and murder of his mother, Bonnie Minter, and her friend, Sheila Watson.
Profit, Ayala and Walls shocked Westchester County close to four decades ago when they broke into Watson's South Salem Home, where Jason Minter's 3-year-old sister was playing with Watson's daughter, and held the group up at gunpoint.
Bonnie Minter, who was just 32 at the time, arrived while the attackers were still in the house, stumbling into the middle of the crime scene with then-6-year-old Jason and his friend, Watson's son, Lucas, 6.
Profit and Ayala held the whole group at gunpoint, ushering the women and children upstairs into a bedroom. As the men pushed the mothers into a separate bedroom, Jason began to struggle with the men, crying and begging them to stop.
Ayala pressed the butt of his gun into Jason's face and ordered, "Shut the f--- up, kid," before he and Profit took the mothers into the next room, raped them and shot them to death.
The men became eligible for parole in 2002 but have been denied every two years since. Minter worries, however, that Ayala will be released as the man's family has started a letter-writing campaign to the Parole board.
"He's the worst of them all,'" said Minter, now 43. "Why should someone like that ever be released?"
Minter detailed his struggles to cope with his mother's killing in a 2004 Westchester Magazine article, and has shot more than 26 hours of footage for a documentary on the crime. He has spoken with Walls and Profit and said neither of them have apologized.
Ayala has never returned his letters or contacted him, he said.
Minter and his sister, who now lives in New Mexico, have given victim-impact statements to the Parole board, and Minter launched the online petition on Jan. 3. He had gathered more than 2,300 signatures as of Tuesday morning, with support coming from as far as Iceland and as close as Inwood.
"My sister and I are so touched by the outpouring of concern and care by friends and neighbors," Minter said. "A lot of the momentum came just from people in Inwood sharing the petition."
Minter, who was inspired to start the petition after speaking to Brooks Prouty, the grandson of another Westchester murder victim, said that he's growing weary of the constant fear that the men who killed his mother could be freed.
"To have to do this every two years is torturous," Minter said.