A father who died from a drug overdose. A sense of self based on the opinions of others. Fear over money issues and not being able to maintain the lifestyle he'd become accustomed to as he entered his junior year at Centennial High.
Those were among the things on the mind of Parker Chamberlin leading up to the day he took a knife and plunged it into his mother's body 35 times, Chamberlin testified Monday.
"At that time in my life I thought my life would be better if my mom was dead," he said.
At times emotional, and at one point even breaking down sobbing, Chamberlin testified he lives every day with the horror of the "brutal, callous" death he inflicted on his mother, and the pain he's caused to her family and friends.
"Not in many lifetimes would I be able to pay sufficiently for what I did," he said.
Prosecutor Nick Lackie, however, didn't buy Chamberlin's testimony. He asked Chamberlin if he took any acting classes in prison, and otherwise cast doubt as to the authenticity of his displayed emotions.
"Do you normally shed tears when you cry?" asked Lackie, apparently noticing no moisture on Chamberlin's face.
Chamberlin was 15 at the time of Tori Lynn Knapp's slaying in 2001. Now 33, he's back in Kern County for a resentencing hearing that could possibly set him free. State prison officials last year recommended him for resentencing based on his good performance while in custody.
On Monday, the second day of the hearing, Chamberlin testified he grew up believing his father's cocaine addiction was his fault. He said his father's death, which occurred when Chamberlin was 7 or 8, felt like the "ultimate rejection of me." He believed his father chose drugs over being with him.
He testified his entire identity and sense of self in high school weren't tied to anything authentic. He saw himself only in terms of others. The validation of others was what mattered.
During the summer of the killing, Chamberlin said, he'd been taking steroids to bulk up for football. They made him feel depressed. He began making impulsive decisions and couldn't understand why he made them.
For instance, he quit a baseball team. Then he dropped out of a summer school class he'd been doing well in.
The morning before the killing, Chamberlin testified, his mother didn't give him his allowance and told him they needed to cut back on spending because they were in debt. He said he didn't think much of it at first, but it began bothering him more throughout the day.
That night, while at a friend's house, he began feeling more and more pressure about not being able to meet the expectations of his upcoming junior year. With his mother dead, he reasoned, his family would feel sorry for him and the pressure would go away.
Chamberlin left his friend's house and walked several miles to his mother's Rosedale area home. He then entered her bedroom and killed her.
"I panicked and I made this terrible, terrible impulsive decision," he testified.
He said he felt no consideration for his mother or anyone else at the time. He just acted on his impulse.
While acknowledging he can never make up for his mother's killing, Chamberlin testified "everything has changed" in how he sees himself and others. Now, he said, his identity is guided by values like love, compassion and integrity.
Lackie asked if Chamberlin's desire to be free should receive more consideration than the many people, including numerous relatives, who wish him to remain behind bars.
Chamberlin said "no." He testified he doesn't believe he will ever "deserve" to leave prison.
"Any type of material freedom that I experience would be an act of mercy or grace," he said.
The hearing will continue Wednesday afternoon.
Judge Michael G. Bush could decide Chamberlin should continue serving his sentence, in which case he'll be eligible for parole in 2023. Or he could strike a weapons enhancement that was part of Chamberlin's prison term and knock one year off his sentence.
Lastly, he could resentence Chamberlin to probation, and he would be released.
The court last week heard from a psychologist who recently examined Chamberlin and found no evidence of psychopathy. A couple counselors who worked with Chamberlin in prison testified they found him to be a model inmate who helped others and sought no special favors.
After stabbing Knapp to death early July 3, 2001, Chamberlin at first told authorities he had encountered an intruder attacking his mother. He later admitted killing her.