On April 29, 2021, the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) granted parole to inmate Gregory Todd Byers, who was serving a 15 years-to-life sentence after having pled to one count second degree murder and arson of an inhabited structure against Tuolumne County resident Douglas Elliott.
On May 2, 1985, Mono Village fire fighters responded to a fire in the Mono Village subdivision where a double-wide mobile home was engulfed in flames. The following day, the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office returned to the scene to investigate the cause of the fire. While investigating the fire, Deputies interviewed Inmate Byers age 19 at the time of the offense) who, after a few minutes of questioning, admitted to having killed his brother, Douglas Elliott on April 29, 2985, and dumping his body in the Don Pedro Reservoir. Inmate Byers also admitted to starting the fire of the mobile home. Mr. Elliott’s body was recovered from the reservoir and an autopsy determined his cause of death to be a shotgun wound to the head.
Mr. Byers was granted parole previously in 2011, but re-entered the lifer stream after committing a felony vandalism offense while out on parole. Mr. Byers also committed multiple parole violations before being re-committed to the California Department of Corrections in 2014, and has had a parole suitability hearing annually since his re-commitment. Mr. Byers has been deemed unsuitable for parole 4 times previously since being re-committed in 2014. Presiding over the April 29, 2021 hearing were BHP Commissioner Dianne Dobbs and Deputy Commissioner Keith Betchley. Deputy District Attorney Kate Christie appeared via video conference for the hearing.
The Tuolumne County District Attorney’s office vehemently opposed the granting of parole for Inmate Byers. Arguing that Inmate Byers’ poor prior performance while supervised on parole, lack of insight into the reasoning behind both his life crime (murder) and his subsequent offense (vandalism), his continued denial of responsibility and victim blaming, and shallow answers provided to the Board during the hearing constituted a continued unreasonable risk to public safety.
After a fifteen minutes of deliberation, the Board chose to give Inmate Byers a grant of parole. The Board recognized that Inmate Byers’ lack of self-control was an aggravating factor, but that it is outweighed by several mitigating factors, including his minimal criminal history (essentially consisting of the life offense and the current re-commitment offense), programing while in prison, participation in mental health services, and the statement of a clinician describing him as “stable.” The Board found that his behavior showed a positive and clear effort to change the circumstances that brought him back to prison, as well as realistic and reasonable parole plans that appear appropriate to give him support when released into the community.
The Panel’s decision will be under review for 120 days and will be finalized unless the Governor refers the decision for en-banc review by the Board of Parole Hearings.
For More Information Contact:
Kate Christie, Deputy District Attorney