Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas Wednesday urged Gov. Jerry Brown to reverse a decision to grant parole to a former Rubidoux resident who was 17 years old when he raped and killed his stepmother and a family friend more than four decades ago.
The California Board of Parole Hearings determined on May 2 that Gregory Coates, 61, was suitable for release and granted his parole application, according to Rackauckas’ office.
Prosecutors in Orange and Riverside counties had previously teamed up to oppose parole for Coates, who raped and murdered his stepmother Betty Coates in her Orange County home on May 4, 1975.
Coates wrapped the 48-year-old woman’s body in gasoline-soaked towels and set her on fire. He also raped and killed a friend’s mother, 37-year-old Jean Marie Stephens, in her Riverside home on Jan. 22, 1975, after she caught him trying to steal her guns, according to prosecutors.
Coates shot her twice in the head with a gun he stole from her and left behind her body, which was found by her 11-year-old daughter.
Coates was sentenced to 12 years to life in prison for both murders.
Orange County Deputy District Attorney Susan Laird and several members of Stephens’ family appeared at Coates’ May parole hearing at San Quentin State Prison to oppose his parole.
“The OCDA strongly objects to the panel’s dangerous decision to parole Coates into the community and urged Governor Brown to use his executive power to reverse the grant of parole,” according to a statement from Rackauckas’ office.
“The OCDA further asserts the board violated the Marsy’s Law rights of the victim’s family members, many of whom traveled several to attend, by limiting their testimony and prohibiting several family members from entering the parole hearing room.”
The District Attorney’s Office also contends that although Coates admitted to the murders at his latest hearing, he continues to deny the rapes.
“After 43 years, the inmate conjured up perhaps the most offensive, disturbing and manipulative version of the facts, claiming to have had consensual sex with his stepmother after she allegedly sexually molested him for years,” according to the statement from Rackauckas’ office. “He further maintained that he murdered the victim over a dispute about money.”
The granting of Coates’ parole request “jeopardizes public safety due to inmate Coates’ minimization of the rape, torture and murder of two vulnerable women who were mother figures to him.”
“Based on his prior parole hearings, the inmate’s apparent `acceptance’ of responsibility was designed specifically to win a parole date and is not a true recognition of his heinous acts,” the statement continued. “Without accepting full responsibility for the true nature of this crime, the inmate continues to present a clear and present danger to our community.”
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