California authorities set a convicted murderer loose to create more space in state prisons because of the coronavirus.
Terebea Williams, 44, served about 20 years of a 84-year sentence for murder before state authorities let her out of prison as part of an effort by the California government to free up space inside prisons and reduce the risk of coronavirus spread among inmates, according to CBS Sacramento.
In 2001, Williams was convicted of first-degree murder in the kidnapping and death of 23-year-old Kevin Ruska Jr. Williams held Ruska at gunpoint and forced him into the trunk of her car where she shot him in the abdomen. She then drove him 750 miles to Washington state, tied him to a chair in a motel room, and left him with one leg free so he could stomp for help. He was dead by the time someone found him.
“It’s appalling to me everything that’s been allowed to happen. I don’t think for one second she’s going to walk out there a changed person, she’s not,” said Karri Phillips, Ruska’s cousin.
“And for this to come down, for her to walk, I don’t even know why, to this day, why my son is dead,” said Kevin Ruska, Sr., the victim’s father.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is in the process of releasing thousands of inmates to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among prison populations. It is unclear how Williams qualified for release. The CDCR has outlined criteria that allow an inmate to be eligible for early release, and Williams’ murder charge should disqualify her.
The CDCR did not immediately return a request for comment.
The CDCR will release prisoners in three stages. The state will begin releasing prisoners with 180 days or fewer left on their sentences who have not been convicted of a violent crime or are registered or required to register as a sex offender.
In the second stage, inmates age 30 and older with less than a year left on their sentences will be eligible for release if they are being held in one of eight prisons with “large populations of high-risk patients.” For the third stage, prisoners deemed at high risk of the coronavirus will be released as long as they are not convicted of a violent crime, required to register as a sex offender, or serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
“This is serious stuff and requires a seriousness of purpose. People are just saying just release thousands and thousands of people,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said at the time the initiative was announced. “Each and every one of these cases are sobering, challenging, and there’s a deep responsibility that comes with this job, but a sense of deep urgency as well to decompress the system in a judicious and thoughtful way.”
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