Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to turn San Quentin State Prison into a facility to rehabilitate criminals means that some of Southern California’s most notorious killers, condemned to death, will be moved into the general populations at other prisons.
The change will not affect their death sentences. No one has been executed in California since 2006, and the governor’s moratorium on capital punishment remains in effect.
They will follow other death row inmates who already have been moved to other prisons, where they received more time out of their cells than at San Quentin while working to pay restitution as part of the Condemned Inmate Transfer Pilot Program. That program, which expired in January but which officials say they hope to make permanent, was created after the voters passed Prop. 66, the headline feature of which was to streamline death row appeals.
The roughly 124 inmates in that program, out of about 700 death row inmates overall, will remain at their current prisons. As of 2021, more than $49,000 in restitution has been collected, said Vicky Waters, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Among those in the program was Earl Ellis Green, who was sentenced to death for the Nov. 7, 2010 murder of Riverside police Officer Ryan Bonaminio. The officer’s mother, Gerri Bonaminio, called the program “So, so wrong.”
Here are some of the other well-known killers with Southern California ties currently on death row:
• Donald Debose: In 1997, he shot Dannie Kim, put her into the trunk of her car and set it ablaze.
• Timothy Joseph McGhee: He murdered two rival gang members and the girlfriend of another between 1997 and 2001.
• Michael Hughes: In 1998, he was convicted of choking to death four women, leaving three in alleys.
• Chester Turner: He strangled eight women from 1987 to 1998.
• Randy Kraft: The Long Beach computer consultant targeted young drifters and Marines he found hitchhiking. In 1989, Kraft was convicted of 16 murders.
• James Marlow: In 1986, along with Cyntia Coffman, he raped and strangled college student Lynell Murray, 19, and then went out to a shrimp dinner.
• Gerald Parker: He raped and murdered five Orange County women in the 1970s, earning the nickname the Bedroom Basher because he bludgeoned his victims with a hammer, a mallet or a 2-by-4.
• Joseph R. Avila: He stabbed two people to death during an argument over a woman in Riverside in 1991.
• Michael R. Burgener: He killed a convenience store clerk in Riverside on Halloween 1980 in a robbery that netted him $50.
• Raymond Lee Oyler: He set the 2006 Esperanza fire that killed five U.S. Forest Service firefighters.
• Luis Alonso Mendoza: He was one of the gunmen who killed four people in 2000 in the notorious “Dead Presidents” case.
• Rickie Lee Fowler: He set the 2003 Old fire that led to five deaths.
• Charles “Chase” Merritt: He was convicted of the 2010 bludgeoning deaths of former business associate Joseph McStay Sr., his wife and two young children, and burying their bodies in the High Desert.
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