Parker Chamberlin, who as a teenager stabbed his mother to death as she lay in bed, will continue serving 26 years to life in prison, a Kern County judge ruled Wednesday.
Chamberlin, now 33, has been in prison 17 years following his first-degree murder conviction in the grisly slaying of Torie Lynn Knapp. He was returned to Kern County after prison officials decided he should be considered for resentencing, and possibly released, due to his good behavior behind bars.
Superior Court Judge Michael G. Bush said there is no doubt Chamberlin will one day be released, but "today is not that day."
Upon Bush making his ruling, Chamberlin, who sat ramrod straight with hands clasped and eyes focused on the judge, momentarily dropped his head.
Bush acknowledged Chamberlin has done well in prison, but said he can't justify making a ruling that finds resentencing him in the interests of justice. He said he's not sure words are capable of describing the brutality with which Chamberlin killed his mother.
Richard Moore, Knapp's father and Chamberlin's grandfather, said afterward he was relieved by the ruling.
"He was sentenced to 26 years to life," Moore said. "This is the way it was supposed to be."
This marked the first hearing in Kern County where a convicted murderer was up for early release based on his performance in prison, Deputy District Attorney Nick Lackie said.
The prosecutor said he's pleased with the decision, that it's the "right" decision, and he's glad the judge wasn't deceived by Chamberlin's behavior.
He previously characterized Chamberlin's tearful testimony and expressions of remorse as an act. Lackie on Wednesday said he agrees with Bush that Chamberlin will eventually be free because the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation "has bought into that act hook, line and sinker."
Chamberlin will be eligible for parole in 2023.
Several people who attended the hearing in support of Chamberlin's release declined comment.
The judge cited several letters submitted to the court at the time of Chamberlin's 2002 sentencing hearing. In one, Knapp's mother, Mardee Sprayberry, wrote, "There is not a doubt in my mind that over the next 26 years Parker will perform as a model prisoner just as he performed as a model child for the first 14 years of his life, deceiving his family and friends along the road to ultimate betrayal."
"It is my greatest concern," Sprayberry wrote, "that in 26 years a parole board will be deceived in the same way and feel compelled to release him onto an unsuspecting public."
Bush had several options to consider, among them ruling that Chamberlin should continue serving his original term, knock a year off that term or sentencing him to probation and having him released.
Last month, Chamberlin testified he's a far different person than the 15-year-old who inflicted the "brutal, callous" death of his mother, and he'd like to be free. He said his identity back then wasn't tied to anything authentic, and he only saw himself in terms of others and the validation he received from them.
He took steroids the summer of the killing, Chamberlin testified. They made him depressed, he said, and he began making impulsive decisions he couldn't understand.
"I panicked and I made this terrible, terrible impulsive decision," he testified.
Lackie, however, has said Chamberlin fooled everyone back in 2001 by giving the impression he was a loving, attentive son when in fact he was self-centered and willing to kill when things didn't go his way. It's alleged Chamberlin killed his mother over money.
In prison, Chamberlin became a certified addictions treatment counselor through the California Association for Alcohol and Drug Educators and the California Association for DUI Treatment Programs.
Chamberlin will be able to apply for entry level positions in Bakersfield and throughout California, his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Peter Kang, wrote in court documents. Kang wrote Chamberlin had a job offer from The Freedom to Choose Project, which has as its mission helping former inmates become productive members of society.
In speaking with officers after the killing, Chamberlin described himself as shaking with anger and blamed his mother for his rage as he walked more than three miles from a friend's house to his mother's Rosedale area home around 3 a.m. on July 3, 2001.
Upon entering the house, he grabbed a kitchen knife and walked into Knapp's bedroom. He then stabbed the 40-year-old, plunging the knife into her body 35 times.