Parole denied in early 80's Sonoma County murder cases

Survivors of two Sonoma County people brutally slain more than a quarter of a century ago journeyed Thursday to Vacaville, hoping to look at the killers while describing the anguish they caused and urging that they remain locked away.

The widow of Ralph Currier, who was stabbed to death by an intruder in the couples' Santa Rosa home in 1980, received some satisfaction at a parole hearing at State Prison Solano. Relatives of the Linda Bunke, the Petaluma mother who died followed a beating by her estranged husband in 1982, received less.

But ultimately, both sets of survivors greeted the outcome they'd hoped for. The two-person parole panel that convened within the sprawling hillside prison denied parole to both of the Sonoma County killers, Roger Lee Hill and Larry Bunke.

The murder cases had no connection, nor do inmates Hill, 52, and Bunke, 51. Commissioner Arthur Anderson and Deputy Commissioner Robert Harmon bunch the hearings that emanate from the same county so that county prosecutors who drive to the prison — generally, to oppose parole — can handle more than one case per trip.

Perhaps the most dramatic moment in Thursday's two hearings came as Currier's widow, Gail Case Currier, briefly spoke. As she had at past years' parole hearings for inmate Hill, she said she doesn't believe he should yet be released. As she spoke, she sat at the end of a table with the commissioners to her right, and, a few feet to her left, the former Santa Rosa man who knifed her husband to death before her eyes 29 years ago.

"I don't in my heart believe that he is ready to go out in the world," said Currier, who uses an electric scooter because of difficulty walking and who traveled from Orange County, where she now lives.

She'd begun another sentence in opposition to parole for Hill when she stopped and addressed him directly.

"Thank you for looking at me," the widow said to the convicted killer, who was 23 at the time of the crime and has now spent more years in prison than out. "This is the first time you have looked at me."

Hill, who'd already used his opportunity to speak, asked Commissioner Anderson if he might say a few more words. Anderson said it was unusual request, but yes.

Hill looked again to Gail Currier as he said, "I was always instructed that we're not to look at you. That's why I didn't look at you."

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