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.
Despite the personal progress Hill has made after spending nearly 60 percent of his life in prison, Gail Currier said she doubts he is prepared to meet the challenges and temptations of life beyond the walls.
"What happens when he goes out there?" she said.
Although partially disabled by a stroke many years ago, Currier traveled to Vacaville about seven times over the past dozen or so years to attend Hill's parole hearings. She often submitted petitions urging that her husband's killer not be paroled. She appreciated that Sonoma County prosecutors consistently attended the hearings and urged that Hill remains a threat to society.
The Curriers were new to Santa Rosa in fall 1980. They'd left Orange County, where construction activity had slowed, and come north after Ralph Currier was told that a union glazier could find work in the Bay Area.
Early the Sunday morning of Nov. 23, Gail Currier arose from bed to use the bathroom. She spotted a slight, young man in the living room and screamed.
Her husband rushed in and the intruder pulled a knife and stabbed him 17 times. Ralph Currier died later that morning at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
A tip from an informant led detectives to Hill and the discovery of his tennis shoes. The soles matched bloody prints left at the Curriers' home.
North Bay Suicide Prevention 24-hour hotline: 855-587-6373
NAMI Sonoma County warmline: 707-527-6655
Sonoma County Psychiatric Emergency Services: 707-576-8181
For information on Sonoma County support groups, call 707-527-6655 or go to namisonomacounty.org