BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — It’s been 20 years since Park Chamberlin entered his mother’s bedroom with a knife in his hand.
Torie Lynn Knapp was asleep, but even if she had heard her then-15-year-old son arrive home she could not have imagined what would happen next. What mother could?
Chamberlin approached Knapp’s bed and plunged the knife into her body. Then he did it again. And again.
Thirty-five times, all told. A detective later described the killing as one of the two most gruesome crime scenes he encountered in a decades-long career.
Now, after two decades in state prison, Chamberlin is up for parole.
Commissioners of the Board of Parole Hearings on Thursday will decide whether Chamberlin, 35, should be released. If they do, his case will go before Gov. Gavin Newsom, who could overrule the board and order Chamberlin to remain behind bars.
Chamberlin said he’s changed since his conviction. At the time of the killing, he testified during a 2019 resentencing hearing, he only saw himself in terms of others and the validation he received from them. He was concerned with status, with material things.
Chamberlin said his identity is now guided by values like love, compassion and integrity. He worked to become a certified addictions treatment counselor through the California Association for Alcohol and Drug Educators and the California Association for DUI Treatment Programs. If released, he testified, he would help others and become a positive force in the community.
Assistant Public Defender Peter Kang represented Chamberlin at the 2019 hearing. Under changes to state law, Chamberlin could not be charged as an adult if he committed the same crime today, and would have been released by the time he turned 26, he said.
“Mr. Chamberlin is nothing like the child at 15 years old who committed the crime,” Kang said in an email. “There was some evidence that he was also taking steroids, which have been linked to increased aggression and violence.
“(Board of Parole Hearings) should not just look at the static factors of the crime alone, because that erroneously assumes that people don’t change. And people do change, Parker has changed from the 15-year-old boy who committed the crime. Over the last almost 20 years, Parker transformed into a different and better person.”
Prosecutors and Knapp’s family, however, have cautioned against believing anything Chamberlin says, or indications he’s turned his life around.
Twenty years ago, prosecutor Nick Lackie said at the resentencing hearing, Chamberlin had everyone convinced he was a loving son up until the time of the murder, which was allegedly committed over money.
No one knew then about Chamberlin’s remarkable ability to deceive others, Lackie said in court. He urged others not to be fooled by his purported sincerity.
A ‘terrible, terrible’ decision
Chamberlin left a friend’s house and walked to his mother’s Rosedale area home around 3 a.m. on July 3, 2001. He told police he shook with anger and blamed his mother for how he felt.
He took steroids that summer. During the resentencing hearing — where he was denied early release — Chamberlin testified the steroids left him depressed and impulsive, doing things without understanding why.
That’s why he grabbed the knife, he said.
“I panicked and I made this terrible, terrible impulsive decision,” he testified.
Chamberlin attacked his mother in a rage, stabbing her with such ferocity the tip of the knife broke off in her body.
The knife became so slick with blood it slipped and he cut his hand.
Don Krueger, who spent 30 years with the Bakersfield Police Department, was the lead investigator in Knapp’s slaying. He testified what he encountered in Knapp’s bedroom was matched in sheer grisliness by only one other crime scene — the house where former vice principal Vincent Brothers killed his wife, mother-in-law and three of his children.
Knapp’s bed was soaked with blood. Blood spattered the walls and ceiling.
Cuts and stab wounds covered her body, Krueger said, with many wounds to her head, face and lower abdomen.
Chamberlin claimed he found an intruder attacking his mother. He said he cut his hand fighting off the assailant.
Krueger didn’t buy it. There were a number of holes in Chamberlin’s story. The timeline he gave didn’t make sense. The cut to his hand was suspicious.
The evidence pointed to one suspect. Did you kill your mother?, Krueger asked.
Chamberlin confessed. Prosecutors charged him as an adult.
The following year he was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to 26 years to life.
On Thursday, he’ll learn whether he must continue serving that sentence, or if he’s close, after spending the majority of his life behind bars, to rejoining society.