BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Parker Chamberlin has been found suitable for parole 20 years after stabbing his mother to death at the age of 15.
The decision by a panel of the Board of Parole Hearings came Thursday during a nearly four-hour hearing held by video conference for Chamberlin, who was tried as an adult and convicted of murder in the grisly slaying of 40-year-old Torie Lynn Knapp.
Sentenced to 26 years to life, Chamberlin could be released before the end of the year after spending roughly 20 years in custody.
Next comes a review process that can last months before the matter goes before Gov. Gavin Newsom, who can block Chamberlin’s release.
Chamberlin, now 35, testified during the hearing from Valley State Prison in Chowchilla. He wore a blue jumpsuit, his brown hair cut short.
Asked why he should be released, Chamberlin paused and sighed deeply. Then he gave four reasons, first among them remorse. He acknowledged he committed the “vicious, heinous murder” of his own mother, and said he knows family, friends and the children his mother taught at Highland Elementary School are among those who have suffered.
“I do know how much pain I’ve caused,” he said. “And I’m remorseful, I’m deeply, deeply sorry every day.”
The other reasons, Chamberlin said, are that he has managed to identify and replace character traits that led to the crime, change his belief system, and receive strong support from family and friends willing to help him make the difficult transition from prison to life on the outside.
Chamberlin testified he only thought of himself back when he killed his mother. He had no empathy for anyone, and believed he wasn’t intrinsically lovable. He said he was capable of manipulating others, being whoever they wanted him to be.
Movies and video games played a role in his behavior, Chamberlin testified. The movies he watched — action films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone — showed violence was a way to solve your problems, he said
He testified the media he consumed led him to believe violence could solve the problems not just of fictional characters, but his as well.
Shortly before the killing, Knapp told him they had money issues and needed to cut back on spending, Chamberlin said. She also said his sister was moving back home. Both those pieces of news made him furious. He testified he felt like his whole world was coming undone.
On the night of July 2, 2001, he made the decision to murder his mother, Chamberlin testified. He killed her early the next morning.
“I believed that if my mom was dead, my other family members would pity me and I would get the attention I got when my dad died” and get the material things he wanted, Chamberlin testified.
Board of Parole Hearings Commissioner Mary Thornton noted the brutality of the crime. Chamberlin stabbed his mother a total of 35 times, including nine times in the face. He partially disemboweled her.
Why did he act with such ferocity?
“I’m ashamed to say this, but I wanted to hurt her,” Chamberlin said.
He said he never considered any weapon other than a knife because it made the killing extremely personal.
“No one has ever committed a crime that I’ve heard of that is as vicious as the crime I committed,” he testified.
Now he knows violence is never a solution, Chamberlin said. He said he practices “active remorse” by reflecting each day on his crime. He prays and meditates.
Assistant Commissioner Christine Nijjer said Chamberlin’s behavior in prison has been impeccable. But so was his behavior before the killing.
She asked how she and Thornton can know he has experienced legitimate change.
“My personal integrity today,” Chamberlin said. “I live my life according to my personal values.”
Since his incarceration, Chamberlin testified, he has experienced many intense emotions similar to what he experienced when he killed his mother, and he’s able to deal with them.
“I have grown up, commissioner,” he said. “I have grown up and I have the belief system of a man.”
Chamberlin has been married two years. Nijjer asked how he would react if he was released and one day came home and found his wife in bed with another man.
Chamberlin testified he would immediately run out of the house, get in his car and drive to a “safe place” like a Starbucks. He said he would then call his support group. He testified his coping skills would keep his emotions in check despite the pain his wife’s betrayal would cause.
It would be devastating, he said, but not the end of the world.
If released, Chamberlin said he planned to accept a job offer from the Community Justice Center in Fresno for $60,000 a year. He has received a bachelor’s degree while in prison.
Michael Caves, a Kern County prosecutor who attended the hearing, questioned what happens when Chamberlin faces real life stressors outside of prison. He said it’s important to keep the inmate in prison until it’s known meaningful chance has occurred.
Others who spoke before the panel rendered a decision included family and friends of Knapp.
Richard Moore, Knapp’s father and Chamberlin’s grandfather, said the family has always hoped Chamberlin would remain in prison for life. He said Chamberlin, like every sociopath, is an expert at deceit.
Moore said it’s the family’s position that Chamberlin, if released, be paroled far away from Kern County.
Debbie Hankins, a longtime friend of Knapp, said Chamberlin committed a calculated, horrific murder.
“He didn’t just kill her, he butchered her,” Hankins testified.
She said there is no assurance he won’t commit another terrible act.
Factors considered for parole
Inmates serving indeterminate sentences are not entitled parole release but do have the right to be considered for parole.
Parole commissioners consider prior convictions and social history, institutional behavior, disciplinary history, education, vocational training, employability, self-help, Comprehensive Risk Assessment (CRA) — which are any psychological reports — and parole plans.
With the passage of Senate Bill 1391, which took effect in 2019, children under 16 are barred from being tried in adult court. Theoretically, if Chamberlin committed the same crime today, he would have been released by age 26.
At the start of Thurday’s hearing, Thornton said the panel would place great weight in the change to the law.
When she gave the panel’s decision, Thornton went over the many classes Chamberlin has taken, his exemplary record while incarcerated and his youth when the killing occurred.
Among the conditions of Chamberlin’s parole are that he not contact Knapp’s family, be placed in a transitional housing program, stay out of bars and liquor stores and attend an alcohol abuse program. Chamberlin testified he’s an alcoholic but has been sober since 2007.
Resentencing hearing in 2019
In 2019, Chamberlin was had a resentencing hearing in Kern County where he argued he’s a changed man dedicated to spending the rest of his life helping others.
During that hearing, a psychologist testified Chamberlin showed no signs of psychopathy and posed minimal risk if released.
But prosecutors urged the court to keep him behind bars. Chamberlin presented himself as a loving son, your average teenage boy interested in sports and hanging out with friends.
No one knew Chamberlin was capable of murder, yet he was, prosecutor Nick Lackie said in 2019. He fooled everyone, Lackie said, and no one should trust assertions he has changed.
Judge Michael G. Bush decided not to resentence Chamberlin, saying he was “greatly concerned” Chamberlin hadn’t changed after hearing people describe similarities in his behavior before the killing occurred and after having spent years behind bars.
A brutal murder
Chamberlin claimed his use of steroids was partly to blame for the attack, saying they made him act impulsively. Prosecutors alleged he killed his mother over money.
Early July 3, 2001, Chamberlin left a friend’s house and walked to his mother’s Rosedale area home. He took a knife from the kitchen and entered Knapp’s bedroom.
Chamberlin attacked his mother as she slept, stabbing her with enough force the tip of the blade broke off in her body.
A detective later testified what he saw in Knapp’s bedroom was among the two most gruesome scenes he encountered in a 30-year career.
Chamberlin initially told police an intruder killed Knapp and he fought off the man.
Pressed by detectives who told him his story didn’t add up, he confessed. He was convicted of first-degree murder the following year.