Mostly clear

State parole board backs release for killer in 1980 Santa Rosa stabbing

The blow Gail Case Currier took Thursday was nothing compared to what she suffered in her living room before dawn on Nov. 23, 1980, when she screamed as a Santa Rosa street crook stabbed her husband again and again.

Still, Currier said that receiving word that the state parole board voted Wednesday to release killer Roger Lee Hill from prison hurt plenty.

"I'm disappointed that he's not going to die in prison," Currier, 73, said from her longtime home in Orange County. "And I'm sad that you guys are going to get him."

Hill, who wasn't yet 24 when he slipped into the westside mobile home the Curriers had rented and is now 56, has told state corrections officials he will return to Sonoma County to live with relatives.

The vote of the parole board will go later this spring to Gov. Jerry Brown, whose options include reversing the decision to release Hill.

Hill was sentenced to 26 years to life for the murder of glass installer Ralph Currier, 47. He became eligible for parole in the late 1990s, but parole panels repeatedly found him unsuitable for release -- until Jan. 9.

A two-person parole panel convened at the state prison in Vacaville that day and considered how Hill has conducted and attempted to improve himself through his nearly 31 straight years of incarceration. The parole commissioner and deputy commissioner split on whether to grant Hill parole.

That 1-1 decision went Wednesday to the monthly meeting of the Board of Parole Hearings in Sacramento. Meeting in closed session, commissioners voted that Hill is now suitable for parole.

Unless Brown overturns or amends that decision, Hill could be released in June.

For years at his parole hearings, Hill declared to commissioners he was changed and ready to return to society. Positive reports from prison staff recounted that he had maintained good behavior, learned a marketable skill -- making optical lenses -- and come to accept responsibility for his crimes.

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