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It was a long, long day for Ralph's widow

You probably don't remember Gail Currier's name but you may recall her worst Sunday morning.

About 5:45 a.m. on Nov. 23, 1980, Gail stepped sleepily from the master bedroom of her mobile home off Santa Rosa's Occidental Road to meet the eyes of a burglar.

She screamed and the man shoved her to the floor. Gail's husband, Ralph, a 47-year-old union glazier, leaped from bed and rushed to her aid. The intruder could have fled but instead he pulled a knife from a belt sheath and stabbed Ralph 17 times.

Ralph died later that morning. A bloody shoe print helped convict a well-known local bad seed, Roger Lee Hill, then 24, of the murder.

Gail moved years ago to Orange County. Though she's 65 now and uses a wheelchair because of a stroke, she flew back north to attend Hill's parole hearing Wednesday at the state prison in Vacaville.

I went, too, because I covered the story almost 25 years ago. As Gail and I waited almost five hours for Hill's parole hearing to begin, she told me, "I want to face him, and I want him to face me."

At the hearing, a matured Hill, who has been praised for his conduct in prison, said he is a different and better person. But if he tried to make himself return Gail's gaze, he failed.

He managed only to snap his head toward her as he said, "I am sorry for what I caused Mrs. Currier."

When it came Gail's turn to speak, she told Hill she forgives him but does not think he's ready to be released. The parole board agreed.

Hill will be back before the board in a year. Gail said as she started out on the long journey home that she'll be back as well.

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