On Friday, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom reversed parole for a man found guilty of murdering his wife and unborn child at their Highland, California, home almost 24 years ago. The move comes after Newsom chose to commute the inmate’s sentence in March, making him eligible for early release.
Rodney Patrick McNeal, a former San Bernardino County probation officer, was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison in 2000 on two counts of second-degree murder. He was convicted of killing his wife, Debra BlackCrow, who was six months pregnant at the time. According to The Los Angeles Daily News, “her body was found submerged in a bathtub in their home, with stab wounds, injuries from being beaten and strangulation marks.”
“Mr. McNeal’s violent conduct toward Ms. Blackcrow McNeal not only ended her life, but also had a devastating impact on her family, community, and Tribal Nation,” Newsom said on Friday.
The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports Gov. Newsom “said McNeal must also be able to understand and address the fact that his violent conduct against Debra McNeal, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, occurred within the context of a national epidemic of violence against native women.”
“I have considered the evidence in the record that is relevant to whether Mr. McNeal is currently dangerous,” he continued. “When considered as a whole, I find the evidence shows that he currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison at this time. Therefore, I reverse the decision to parole Mr. McNeal.”
McNeal, 51, was granted parole in October and had been scheduled to be freed on November 13, 2020. However, his release was delayed and he remained incarcerated as the family of Debra BlackCrow and allies pressured Newsom to keep McNeal behind bars. He is currently detained at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom Reverses Parole for Convicted Killer of Oglala Woman https://t.co/gxdo1raVzH
— Native News Online (@nativenews_net) February 1, 2021
Shantel Haynes, the daughter of Debra BlackCrow from a previous marriage, issued a statement that read, in part: “This reversal of the parole grant shows that justice can be retained for domestic violence victims, collateral victims, missing and murdered indigenous women, and proves that people in law enforcement will be held accountable.”
More details from The San Gabriel Valley Tribune:
The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office announced the governor’s decision and commended the efforts of the victim’s daughter, different groups and the community at a news conference on Monday, Grace Underwood, a spokeswoman for the DA’s Office, said.
District Attorney Jason Anderson was thrilled with the outcome, Underwood said.
Shantel Haynes’ work on the case included starting a petition on change.org that drew 7,323 signatures, contacting the governor’s office and getting her mother’s tribe and two South Dakota politicians to write letters to the governor, Underwood said.
Newsom sparked controversy last year after he had written a commutation letter for McNeal that said, “Mr. McNeal has committed himself to his self-improvement.” Meanwhile, San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson went on to reportedly claim McNeal was not reformed and sold heroin while in prison.
Through a public records request, KFI News reporter Steven Gregory obtained a document from the state corrections office that he said “showed that McNeal had no violations in prison and he was basically a model prisoner.” The information released to Gregory conflicted with testimony from McNeal’s parole hearing that reportedly included statements from corrections officers about his transgressions behind bars.
Gregory told KFI’s “John and Ken Show” on Monday that he notified the D.A.’s office of the discrepancy. He said prosecutors questioned whether Gov. Newsom had been given incorrect information “that showed he was a model prisoner when, in fact, he wasn’t,” Gregory said.
D.A. Anderson told Gregory over the weekend that he did not believe there was a cover-up or foul play involved but instead blamed the possible confusion on a governmental bureaucracy that leaves itself open to such errors.
“The guy was bounced around to six or seven institutions in the state over the last twenty years,” Gregory explained on Monday. “It’s possible that those reports were never updated, and it’s possible…it simply fell through the cracks, the information wasn’t updated in the system, it could be a whole host of things.”
“It begs the question, how much other information is the governor getting that’s not accurate,” Gregory said.
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