Compassionate release rejected for murderer with terminal cancer

January 10, 2018 GMT

A Yuba County Superior Court judge denied the compassionate release of an Oroville pedophile convicted of murdering an Oregon House man in 1980.

Lawrence D. Williams, 72, who is serving a lifetime prison sentence for murder, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given five months to live, according to court documents.

The California Department of Corrections referred Williams for early release with the first request and hearing the Yuba County District Attorney’s Office has received.

That motion was denied Friday by Judge Debra Givens. She said the Board of Parole Hearings did not provide sufficient evidence that Williams would not be a danger to society.

Deputy District Attorney Melanie Bendorf, in a filing to Givens, argued the referral for release was a way for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to avoid the cost of future medical care.

“The record-breaking number of parolees being released from prison on life sentences bears witness to the fact that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is bowing to economic and political pressures,” Bendorf wrote to the judge.

In January 1980, Williams, 34 at the time, committed a robbery and murder with a 17-year-old male codefendant.

The pair sold a load of firewood to 78-year-old Joaquin M. Bertao and had gone to his home at Frenchtown Road to deliver it. Once inside Bertao’s home, the 17-year-old threw battery acid in Bertao’s face and tripped him. Williams pinned Bertao to the ground as the young man struck him in the head with a bottle, then strangled him, according to court documents. Williams and the 17-year-old divided the $1,400 they took from Bertao.

Williams also has a criminal history of pedophilia. When he was 16 years old, he was arrested for an attempted molestation of a 6-year-old boy and was sent to a state hospital for a week. The next year, he was arrested for lewd conduct in forcing three young boys to undress; he was evaluated by another state hospital before being released into his grandparents’ custody.

At the time, Williams admitted to molesting eight to 15 boys, according to court documents. That same year, Williams was committed to a state hospital but was found unresponsive to treatment. In 1969, when he was 23, Williams was arrested for kidnapping and assault with the intent to rape a 9-year-old boy. In 1978, when he was 33, he was arrested for lewd acts with a child under 14.

In all, Williams went on to serve four prison terms: the first for sex offenses; the second for armed robbery and kidnapping; the third for probation violation; and the fourth for murder.

“Williams does not deserve release, and children everywhere do not deserve their safety and wellbeing put at jeopardy just so the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation can save money,” Bendorf wrote. “There is no compassion shown to society by releasing this predator that showed no compassion to his victims.”

According to court documents, Williams stated he has never molested a child, and that the murder was the only time in his life he had been violent. In October, a Board of Parole Hearings psychologist determined that Williams presents a moderate risk for violence, his age serving somewhat as a mitigating factor for future risk of violence and sexual recidivism.

Williams will appear before the Board of Parole Hearings for a regularly scheduled hearing Jan. 25.