It was a murder that rocked Bakersfield. A teenage boy, savagely killing his mother in 2001. That boy, Parker Chamberlin, is now 33 and he’s making a bid for a lighter sentence. His hearing in Superior Court ended today. The case is now in the hands of Judge Michael Bush.
Parker Chamberlin was convicted of murdering his mother Torie Knapp and was sentenced to 26 years to life. But last year, the Department of Corrections asked the court to consider reducing Chamberlin’s first-degree murder sentence.
Corrections officials say Chamerblin has been a model prisoner and exhibited extraordinary behavior throughout his 17 years behind bars. The request is significant, CDCR has only made this kind of re-sentencing recommendation for 33 inmates out of some 120,000 prisoners statewide.
But prosecutors and loved ones of Chamberlin’s mother say he also had near perfect behavior for 15 years before he stabbed his mother 35 times.
“He was popular, handsome, all of those things. The girls who went out with him, their parents loved him. I can remember several of my friends who’s daughters dated him saying ‘he’s the kind of guy you’d want your daughter to marry,’ and with that in mind, he not only committed this crime but he premeditated it…he killed his mother in the most gruesome way and took the phone out of her hand when she’s probably trying to call for help,” said Knapp’s close friend Deborah Hankins during her testimony Monday.
Another one of Knapp’s friends, Jennifer Kritsch, recalled Chamberlin’s behavior during her testimony. “He was a model student. In grade school and junior high. He got to skip a grade, he was always the first to be chosen to be student of the month…when I got the call I said it couldn’t be Parker, he couldn’t have done it.”
Also on Monday, Chamberlin’s maternal grandfather, Richard Moore, took the stand the recalled the brutality of his grandson’s crime. “The mattress was bloody. The walls and the floor was bloody…her intestines were on the floor outside her body….the thought that continues is whether or not Torie knew her son was killing her.”
After hearing from witnesses on both sides, it’s now Judge Bush’s decision: Is Parker Chamberlin’s behavior in prison so outstanding that he deserves an earlier, if not immediate release from behind bars?
Judge Bush said today he isn’t aware of any other court in the state that’s had to make a ruling of this kind for a first degree murder case. Even former District Attorney Ed Jagels sat through some of the hearing. Judge Bush said it best himself, this will not be an easy decision.
Today, Prosecutor Nick Lackie called the final witness in this case, the original lead investigator, who recalled the crime scene with chilling detail.
“Out of the many murder scenes I’ve been to, this is easily one of the top 2 most violent scenes I’ve ever been to.” Retired BPD Detective Donald Krueger went onto say the second crime scene he was referring to was the murder of five family members, three of which were young children. Referencing the notorious Vincent Brothers case in relation to Chamerblin’s crime undoubtedly makes a statement about the heinousness of the murder.
Krueger also recalled how Chamberlin seemed extremely agitated the night of the homicide, his pulse was high and he continuously licked his lips.
On cross examination, Assistant Public Defender Peter Kang focused on those observations
“Do you or did you know back then that Parker Chamberlin had symptoms associated with increase testosterone?” asked Kang.
Krueger replied, saying he “doesn’t know anything about that.”
Krueger also said under Kang’s questioning that Chamberlin’s blood was never taken to test for drugs. Kang pointed out that a blood test is the only way to test for excess testosterone.
Chamberlin’s urine was tested for steroids which came back negative, but Kang says investigators recovered evidence of testosterone that Chamberlin was injecting, but proper analysis was never done to examine the levels in his system, and how that may have played into his deadly actions.
Judge Bush then instructed both sides to submit written arguments he will review before making his ruling. Then, he addressed the very divided family in the packed courtroom. “I get the sense that there’s two sides to this, I understand that…I honestly do not what I’m going to do,” he said.
He then made it clear, whether or not he’s the one to help Chamberlin get out of prison, it’s going to happen one day no matter what.
“For those of you who said you’d give him a job or have a place for him to live. Keep that in mind. For those of you who don’t want him out, he’s going to get out someday. And I think you have to prepare yourself for that. And to the defendant, I think you have to prepare yourself too because you could have easily 30,40,50 more years outside of prison ahead of you,” said Judge Bush.
That’s a scenario Prosecutor Nick Lackie is not pleased with. “This is a person who came upon his mom while she was asleep in her bed and he stabbed her so many times that she looked like Swiss cheese and her intestines were hanging out of her body, and any sane society, if we were going to do anything we’d be talking about increasing the penalty in this case.”
He continued, “victims in this state are being buried by an avalanche of pro-crime pro-criminal legislation from pro-crime and pro-criminal politicians, thank goodness we have an independent judiciary that’s independent to our community to act as a check on it and I hope that is what Judge Bush will do,” said Lackie.
Judge Bush says he will make his ruling March 13. He has four options: He could leave Chamberlin’s sentence the way it is, or he could remove a one year enhancement, making Chamberlin eligible for parole in 2022 instead of 2023. He could also change Chamberlin’s conviction from 1st degree murder to 2nd degree murder, which would make him immediately eligible for parole. Lastly, he could resentence Chamberlin to probation, which would mean he’d be released from prison.