Governor Gavin Newsom reverses course, overturns parole board decision on convicted murderer

Gov. Gavin Newsom
Posted at 8:14 AM, Feb 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 11:15:05-05

HIGHLAND, Calif. (KERO) — Governor Gavin Newsom has reversed course, overturning a parole board decision and denying the release of a man convicted of murder after he commuted the sentence last year.

The daughter of Debra McNeal -- Shantel Haynes -- has fought for years to keep the man who killed her mother behind bars. Debra was seven months pregnant when she was murdered in 1997 inside a Southern California home.

McNeal's husband Rodney Patrick McNeal was convicted of murder and sentenced to 30 years to life. Haynes said she did not want to see McNeal sentenced to death.

Rodney Patrick McNeal is listed on the California Innocence Project website. They argue that the timeline of events made it impossible for McNeal to have committed the crime and that it was Rodney's half-brother Jeffery West that killed Debra.

However, Haynes told ABC7, "The California Innocence Project decided to label my mother as a white woman, instead of stating that she was an Oglala Lakota woman. So, they're kind of changing the narrative to fit their needs."

"Mr. McNeal has given at least three different versions of who may have committed these murders, all of those have been reviewed and debunked by appellate courts," said Jason Anderson, San Bernardino County district attorney.

Anderson said despite all of those rulings Governor Newsom commuted McNeal's sentence last year, and McNeal was later granted parole.

However last Friday Newsom changed his mind saying McNeal still poses an unreasonable danger to society.

In his decision, Newsom wrote: "I acknowledge Mr. McNeal has undertaken significant rehabilitation efforts in prison. I also acknowledge that the clinician who evaluated Mr. McNeal in 2020 found that represented a low risk for future violence. While I commend Mr. McNeal for his efforts, I find that he is unsuitable for parole at this time."