"I hope people look into and sign this," said Christopher Cheswick, a retired Baltimore County teacher who brought a "Cheese" banner to last season's Ravens' home games. The Taneytown man said his son was a huge fan who attended games with him in the third row in the end zone.

"It is the eligibility [for parole] that is so bothersome," he said.

Christopher Cheswick said he admires his former wife, Cecilia Roe, for being able to forgive their son's killer. Roe said she believes she heard Matthew's voice two weeks after he died, telling her to forgive Facchini.

"I said, 'Of course I can forgive him,'" she said. "Jesus forgave his murderers. How could I do any less?

"But that doesn't mean he is ready to be back on the streets again."

Roe, director of professional development and instructional assessment at the Maryland State Department of Education, wants to hear from experts whether Facchini is ready to be released and not drive drunk anymore.

But she doesn't imagine he has reached that point yet.

"I don't want some other mother to have to go through this," she said. "What I want is Facchini to rehabilitate and not drink any more and turn his life around and fight against drunk driving."

Roe said her younger son, Luke, 16, has kept old text messages from a big brother who is no longer around to say, "I'm here to take care of you," or "I got your back, bud."

Roe said she knew Facchini would not serve the full prison term. But like her former husband, she was shocked to receive the parole letter.

Christopher Cheswick described it as a rip in what's left of his heart.

The letters ask Cheswick's parents to tell the commission by next month if they plan to attend and speak at a parole hearing. They say they will.

Hearings typically are scheduled 60 to 90 days after victims or survivors respond, Blumberg said, so the hearing date is likely to be in July or August.

By then, Facchini will be nearing the minimum 25 percent of his sentence. Jailed since his arrest on the day he struck Cheswick, he will have served at least 14 months. His minimum is 15 months.

His likely release date would come after he serves just under two-thirds of the sentence, which is close to 40 months.

Gilsa Facchini of Lorton, Diogo Facchini's mother, said she has seen a change in her son based on letters he has written to her from prison. She would like him to have the opportunity for parole, but understands the emotions that generated the online petition.

"He is ashamed," she said. He said her son has told her, "'You don't know how much I think about it, every day I think about what happened.'"

Of the petition drive to keep him in jail, she said, "People write a petition because they don't know him."

Diogo Facchini worked as a driver for a patio-paver company before his arrest, she said. She described her son as a good person, and said her heart goes out to Cheswick's family and friends..

Ryan Hanft, 24, another friend of Cheswick from Glenelg High School now helping to publicize the petition, has set a goal for the drive.

"If we could get 10,000 signatures over time to bring awareness to … the consequences of drunk driving, then that would be amazing," Braun said in a text message.

Cheswick's parents say the fact that Cheswick's friends launched the petition speaks volumes about their son.

"It represents the kind of person Matthew was that his friends wanted to do this," Roe said.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

twitter.com/andsiegel

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