Gov. Jerry Brown has reversed a state parole board decision to release Santa Rosa killer Roger Lee Hill from prison.
The governor concluded that 33 years after Hill sneaked into a westside mobile home before dawn, frightened a woman and took a knife to her husband when he came to her aid, the inmate remains a threat to the public.
"It is apparent that Mr. Hill underestimates his propensity for reacting to situations with extreme rage," Brown wrote in his June 7 reversal of the Board of Parole Hearings decision to grant Hill parole.
Brown found that the Santa Rosa native has not adequately confronted the extreme violence he exhibited in the killing of Ralph Currier, who was stabbed 17 times, and in an earlier assault on a woman whom he beat in her car at Guerneville Road and Highway 116.
"Until he has sufficiently explored and worked through all this, I am concerned he will act out violently again if he encounters a stressful situation," the governor wrote.
Hill was a 23-year-old thief well known to Sonoma County law enforcement officers when he slipped into the residence of glass installer Currier, 47, and his wife, Gail, early the morning of Nov. 23, 1980.
Gail Currier arose, saw Hill in the living room and screamed. When her husband rushed out from the bedroom, Hill pulled a knife and stabbed him in the abdomen and back until he collapsed.
Arrested following a tip to authorities, Hill was convicted in a Sonoma County court of first-degree murder and sentenced to 26 years to life in prison. Now 56, he has spent most of the past three decades at the state prison in Vacaville.
The governor's decision to keep him there was welcome news to Gail Currier, who lives now in Orange County.
"I do not feel that he (Hill) is ready" to be back in society, said Currier, 73. Noting that her husband's killer has lived well more than half of his life in the controlled environment of the prison, she said, "What happens if somebody pushes his wrong button?"
The governor's decision also was hailed Monday by Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch. Her prosecutors appeared consistently at Hill's parole hearings and argued that he remains a violent threat.
"I am pleased to see that the governor reached the same opinion that I have," said Ravitch, who wrote to Brown on March 6 and urged him not to allow Hill's parole.
Had Hill been paroled, he intended to return to Santa Rosa to live with a sister.
Gail Currier said she feared that the governor would allow parole because of efforts by Sacramento to reduce the state's prison population. And Brown has shown a far greater propensity than previous governors to go along with parole board when it rules that a convicted killer is suitable for release.
The Los Angeles Times reported in February that Brown signed off on parole for 377 lifers — concurring with the parole board 81 percent of the time.
In the Hill case, the governor found that the inmate has learned a trade — making optical lenses — and he has maintained a good behavior record and "participated in some self-help programming."
"I commend Mr. Hill for taking these positive steps," Brown wrote in his decision. "But they are outweighed by negative factors that demonstrate that he remains unsuitable for parole."