Originally published Feb. 10, 2006.
The teen-age son crept into his mother's bedroom and, for a moment, watched her lying there in the semi-darkness of the early morning, asleep.
Then, with a decisive brutality he hadn't known he possessed, he killed her.
Hoping to deflect suspicion, he invented an intruder. His story didn't hold up. The teen was arrested; evidence suggested a premeditated crime.
But Larry Matteucci, unlike Parker Chamberlin, never faced the possibility of a life sentence. Four decades ago, the decision to try a juvenile as an adult was routinely left to the juvenile court judge. But by 2006, thanks to Proposition 21, the district attorney's office was making that call. In California, as in a number of states across the country, it's increasingly common for juvenile killers to face adult-sized sentences.
Chamberlin stands accused in the stabbing death of his mother, 40-year-old Torie Lynn Knapp, who was attacked in the early morning of July 3. Jury selection in the trial of the 16-year-old former Centennial High School student starts Monday. He faces 26 years to life.
Matteucci fatally shot his mother, 41-year-old Carol Jean Edde, just as dawn broke on March 12, 1973. The 16-year-old Highland High School student eventually served three years in two California Youth Authority facilities. Today he's free.
Though justice will wield a very different punishment for Chamberlin, should he be convicted, the cases are similar in at least two respects: the setting of the killings, and galling pettiness of the supposed motives. Chamberlin has told investigators his mother refused to give him the money he says she owed. Matteucci told authorities his resentment over being forced to clean house and baby-sit a young half-sister had just boiled over.
Was there more to it than that? In Matteucci's case, most likely. As for Chamberlin, we'll find out this coming week -- maybe.
Life at home was somewhat unsettled for both teens, though for very different reasons.
Chamberlin's father, Will Chamberlin, died from cocaine poisoning when the boy was 8. Matteucci, on the other hand, had a father -- four or five of them. His mother had been married four times, and she had tried to convince a part-time, live-in boyfriend to become number five.
A few months before, Carol Edde's husband, Tom Edde (pronounced "Eddy"), had caught her red-handed in a Monterey motel room with another man. Edde, an unemployed oil-field worker, later threatened to disfigure her "so no one else would ever want her"; she obtained a restraining order in October 1972 and eventually initiated divorce proceedings. She told co-workers at Leo's Furs and Fashions, the 18th Street business where she'd worked about three months, "If I ever end up dead, my husband killed me."
Close, but wrong family member.
Matteucci, her son from her first marriage, had complained to relatives that she'd often send him away for the weekend so she could have men over. She'd go night-clubbing during the week at places like Hi Pockets and the Clover Club, leaving him with housework and baby-sitting. The pressure seemed overwhelming, he later told investigators.
He began telling his closest friends that he wanted to kill her; he even told a "phone-friend" he'd met through a radio station promotion -- a girl he'd never seen face-to-face -- what he wanted to do. (She turned out to be a 24-year-old married mother who'd used a phony name and a concocted life story.) One of his school buddies bet him $5 he wouldn't go through with it; another bet him $100. They'd even set a deadline: Sunday night, March 11. Matteucci asked for a one-day extension.
Matteucci took his grandfather's 22-caliber, bolt-action rifle without asking, got ahold of some ammunition and forged a plan. He'd borrow some too-small shoes, shoot his mother and run outside, leaving bogus shoe tracks. Then he'd change shoes, come back into the house and call the Kern County Sheriff's Department.
He arose before dawn that Monday morning and went into his mother's room, prepared to act. He looked at his mother, sleeping there beneath the pin-up poster of Burt Reynolds he so thoroughly despised, and realized he couldn't do it.
He went back into his room, collected himself and tried again.
The trigger felt stiff, but the rifle fired. Edde was hit near her left eye. Matteucci felt he couldn't leave her that way, so he reloaded and shot her three more times in the face.
She died a little after 7 a.m. in an ambulance, en route to the hospital.
Tom Edde was taken into custody near Chowchilla. He'd been driving from Merced to Bakersfield for a session with divorce lawyers. He produced an acceptable alibi and passed a polygraph test. On March 18, sheriff's investigators arrested Matteucci.
His lawyer plea-bargained, and Matteucci was committed to the CYA on May 4, 1973. He was released on May 28, 1976, having spent time at the Southern Reception Center in Norwalk and the Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility in Whittier. His parole ended in November 1977.
Matteucci has stayed out of trouble. He's married, lives in Los Angeles County and works as a truck driver for a prominent national company.
"Larry has turned out to be a real good man," says Tom Edde, now 73 and back in Bakersfield.
"Down there where he's at, they think the world of him."
Edde thinks a life sentence is "a little harsh" for a 16-year-old boy.
But Matteucci himself isn't so sure that's true in all cases.
"I have mixed emotions about trying kids as adults," says Matteucci, now 45. "It depends on their background, whether they have records or not. From what I saw of the kids when I was (in CYA), it can really vary. I do see (the wisdom of) trying people as adults, but the route that I went was the (most fair)."
In his case, Matteucci says, there was serious mental and physical abuse. He managed to recover and make a life for himself.
"Some kids do," he says. "Some can't."
That's how Larry Matteucci arrived at the place he is today. Parker Chamberlin learns his destiny in the next couple weeks.