Governor nixes parole for Sam Strange, convicted of murdering two Nevada County girls |

Governor nixes parole for Sam Strange, convicted of murdering two Nevada County girls

Sam Strange in Nevada County Superior Court for his homicide trial in 1996.
John Hart/

Sam Strange, convicted of murdering two Nevada County girls, will stay in prison for at least another year.

Strange, convicted for the brutal deaths of Crissy Campbell and Dawn Donaldson in 1994, had been granted parole suitability by Board of Parole Hearings commissioners in February.

But after a five-month period of review, the governor’s office reversed the grant of parole. The governor’s office could have upheld the grant of parole, modified it, sent it back to the full parole board for review and ruling, or taken no action.

Strange, who is 44 now, was found guilty of one count of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder, and was sentenced to two 15-years-to-life prison terms to be served consecutively.

The two girls 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, Allen Pettus and Dameon Graham. He maintained he witnessed the murders and only disposed of the girls’ bodies, keeping quiet out of fear of retaliation and loyalty to his friends.

It is Strange’s explanation of how the murders occurred that led Gov. Jerry Brown to deny parole.

According to the published decision by Brown, he considered whether Strange poses a current danger to the public if released from prison.

Brown noted he was required to give great weight to Strange’s increased maturity in the years since he committed the crimes. He also noted that Strange had made efforts to improve himself while in prison, participating in self help programs, and working as an addictions treatment intern and peer mentor. Strange had only one serious rules violation in 24 years and routinely received above average to exceptional work ratings, Brown added.

“But those factors are outweighed by evidence that demonstrates he is not yet suitable for parole,” Brown wrote.

Strange participated in the “brutal murder of two defenseless teenage girls,” Brown added. “His actions were shocking and disturbing.”

During his February parole hearing, Strange claimed Pettus first killed Donaldson, and that he watched while Pettus and Graham killed Campbell. He said he helped clean up and dumped the bodies because he was protecting his friends, and he did not come forward later because he was scared.

“I find these explanations implausible and very troubling,” Brown wrote. “He has never reported making any efforts to stop or dissuade his friends from perpetrating such horror.”

In the end, Brown wrote, he considered the evidence in the record and found that Strange currently poses an unreasonable danger to society.

The February parole hearing was Strange’s third attempt since his 1996 conviction.

Now that his grant of parole suitability has been reversed, by law he must have another parole hearing in 18 months, said Board of Parole Hearings spokesman Luis Patino.

Strange’s next parole suitability hearing has been tentatively scheduled for August 2019, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation website.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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