Convicted murderer Sam Strange granted parole suitability
Sam Strange, in state prison since he was convicted in 1996 of murdering two Nevada County girls, was granted parole suitability on Wednesday, Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh said.
This was the fourth attempt at parole for Strange, who was found guilty of the brutal deaths of Crissy Campbell and Dawn Donaldson in 1994. He became eligible in 2013 and was granted parole in February 2018, but his grant was reversed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown that July.
Strange remained Wednesday in Valley State Prison in Chowchilla. The parole decision will go to Gov. Gavin Newsom for review and it likely will be months before a final decision is made.
Campbell’s family has advocated for his release, with sisters Shani and Wendy both attending last year’s parole hearing. It was not known as of press time whether they attended the hearing Wednesday. Walsh, who represented the District Attorney’s Office at the hearing, could not be reached for further comment.
Donaldson’s family, however, has always maintained Strange’s guilt and was devastated by Wednesday’s news.
“Fourteen years ago today, I gave birth to two beautiful twin girls — one who has since passed, her middle name Dawn — and the other who gets to celebrate 14 years of life,” said Amber Raymond, sister of Dawn Donaldson, in a message to The Union. “I thought to myself, ‘Today is going to be a beautiful day.’”
And for Raymond, it was a great day until she got the news about Strange.
“How can anyone think this man should be amongst innocent human beings?” she wrote. “Two beautiful teenage girls do not get to hug their mothers any more, they do not get to start families of their own, they don’t get to smile, they don’t get to grow old. Why should he? Let alone what he is denying, what he has admitted to is enough for me to know that this man is a monster, no feelings, no common sense, no morals.”
Raymond said that after tears came anger.
“I’m angry at this decision, and mostly angry that he is taking yet more tears from me,” she wrote. “I am drained from this. I pray for my mother — this is only breaking her beautiful heart even more. She deserves happiness, not this scab repeatedly ripped open.”
Raymond ended by urging Newsom to deny Strange parole.
Campbell and Donaldson were last seen alive at Strange’s Retrac Way home on July 23, 1994. Their bodies were discovered more than a week later on South Ponderosa Way. Strange has consistently pointed the finger at two other men, saying he witnessed the murders and only disposed of the girls’ bodies, keeping quiet out of fear of retaliation and loyalty to his friends.
Strange, now 45, was found guilty of one count of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder, and was sentenced to two sentences of 15 years to life, to be served consecutively.
The decision Wednesday by the parole board now starts a five-month clock.
During the next four months, the audio recording of the hearing will be transcribed and the decision will be subject to review by the parole board’s legal office. Once the parole decision becomes final, it is subject to a 30-day review by the governor, who can uphold the grant of parole, reverse it, modify it, send it to the full parole board for review and ruling, or take no action.
It was at that final stage that Strange’s parole was denied last year. According to the published decision by Brown, Strange has made efforts to improve himself while in prison. But, Brown wrote, Strange’s explanation of what happened to Donaldson and Campbell was “implausible and very troubling. … He has never reported making any efforts to stop or dissuade his friends from perpetrating such horror.”
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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