Ellen Gregory’s Family Marks Sad Milestone by Fighting Domestic Violence

Relatives gathered at her Upper Merion home on Monday, a day after her killer — her husband, Rafael Robb — was released from prison.
Relatives of the late Ellen Gregory (left) will gather at her King of Prussia home Monday, a day after her killer -- her husband, Rafael Robb -- was released from prison on parole.

Relatives of the late Ellen Gregory (left) gathered at her former Upper Merion home on Monday, a day after her killer — her husband, Rafael Robb — was released from prison on probation.

They knew this day was coming.

Ellen Gregory’s family had fought tooth and nail to keep her killer — her husband, former University of Pennsylvania professor Rafael Robb — behind bars for as long as possible. But his release from prison was inevitable; Robb received a 10-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2007, having admitted that he bludgeoned his wife while she wrapped presents a few days before Christmas 2006.

On Sunday, Robb left the Erie County prison where he’d been serving his sentence and began what will be another decade of supervised release. “It’s clearly a sad day to have Rafael Robb be set free when Ellen and all of those who knew her and loved her are serving a lifetime sentence as she lies in the grave,” Gary Gregory,, Ellen’s brother, said by phone on Sunday night.

The question was, how could the still-grieving family cope with this dreaded milestone? They found the answer by venturing back to the ground zero of their heartache — the house where Ellen was beaten to death with an exercise bar. Her relatives and friends gathered Monday morning in front of the property, which sits empty and undisturbed, to speak out against the ills of domestic violence. Ellen had suffered emotional and verbal abuse for years, and hired a divorce attorney shortly before she was murdered.

“Quite frankly, it’s always very brutal just being near the house,” Gregory said. He is the custodian of his sister’s estate, and as such, is tasked with tending to the property. The interior is very much as it was a decade ago; portions of the kitchen floor are still broken from digging investigators did after they realized Ellen’s blood had seeped through the tile grout.

Robb claimed that he spontaneously flew into a rage while arguing with his wife. But he staged the scene afterwards to make it appear that their house had been broken into, and ditched the murder weapon and bloody clothes in Chinatown.  Ellen’s family filed a civil lawsuit against Robb in the years that followed his criminal trial; in 2014, a jury ordered Robb to pay $124 million to the couple’s daughter, Olivia, who was just 12 when her mother was slain.

“He was able to plea-bargain his way to down to manslaughter [during the criminal trial], but a jury of his peers in a civil trial saw that this was clearly premeditated and calculated,” Gregory said. “He showed no remorse.”

In his sister’s memory, Gregory formed Every Great Reason, a foundation that raises awareness about domestic violence and connects victims with outreach organizations that can help them rebuild their lives. Gregory said the foundation has helped thousands of people. “We’re launching a major awareness campaign this year to connect even more people in need, and help them be inspired to move away from their abusers, like my sister tried to,” he said. “We’re going to work hard to make sure Ellen’s legacy is even stronger.”

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