Sonora, California –– Tuolumne County District Attorney Cassandra Jenecke announced that today on June 6, 2023, former Sonora resident Steven Richards, age 68, was found unsuitable for parole and was issued a three year denial during a videoconference hearing with the Board of Parole Hearings. Representing the Tuolumne County District Attorney’s Office at the hearing was Assistant District Attorney Eric Hovatter.
In 2003, Steven Richards, then age 48, was living in Tuolumne County with his mother and his physically disabled sister Nadine. On January 9, 2003, Richards poured a coffee can full of gasoline on Nadine, in the living room of the family home while his mother was present, and set her on fire. Nadine was engulfed in flames and died, and the family dog was also killed. The family home was also destroyed in the fire. After a jury trial, Richards was convicted of First Degree Murder and Arson on April 6, 2005. He was later sentenced to 8 years plus 25 years-to-life in prison.
On June 6, 2023, Richards was given a parole hearing conducted by the Board of Parole Hearings at Richard’s current prison in Vacaville. In anticipation of the hearing, Richards was evaluated by a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) psychologist who reviewed Richard’s prison history, the facts of crime (referred to as the life crime), and his mental health records. This evaluation resulted in a pre-hearing report called a Current Risk Assessment (CRA) report. In the CRA, it was mentioned that Richards was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and suffered auditory hallucinations requiring regular medication. There were reports of violence by Richards against prison staff as recently as 2019, and the report classified him as a High Risk for violent recidivism should he be released.
During the hearing, the two commissioner panel questioned Richards about his participation in-prison programs and why he was a suitable candidate for parole. ADA Hovatter questioned Richards about what concrete steps he had made in the last few years to prepare for release in society. Richards was unable to provide the panel with any planned steps he had made, but hoped to be released to a board and care facility somewhere. The parole board, after deliberations, denied parole for Richards but gave him a three year time period for his next hearing (the board could have extended the next hearing by as much as 15 years) and urged Richards to continue going to alcoholic anonymous meetings and to working with appropriate people in the prison system on coming up with an organized plan for reintroduction.
For additional information, please contact Assistant District Attorney Eric Hovatter at (209) 588 - 5450.