Of the four people convicted of killing 10-year-old Tami Carpenter, only one has been paroled.
But for her first 10 years in prison, BranDee Sisemore said, she didn’t care if she ever got out.
“I just thought it would be easier for the world if I just stayed in prison,” said Sisemore, now 55.
Sisemore was released in 2008, after her 21st parole hearing. Her ex-husband, Hilton Tripp, and Tripp’s friend, Randy Cook — the two who physically murdered Tami — remain in prison, each having been consistently rejected for parole.
An appellate court overturned the conviction of William Record — the man who hired the trio to prevent Tami from testifying against him in a molestation trial — on a technicality in 1985. But a second trial wouldn’t be necessary: Record died on the operating table during heart surgery five days earlier.
Sisemore said she has not communicated with Tripp or Cook since she learned of the murder.
While she wasn’t a model inmate the first decade of her incarceration, getting in fights and drinking homemade liquor on the sly, Sisemore said she began to turn her life around after attending group therapy for survivors of incest.
Record, her step-father, had also molested her, Sisemore said.
Sisemore’s victimization “makes sense,” said John Ferdolage, who retired as a commander at the Arroyo Grande Police Department in 2002. “But it wasn’t part of the story at the time.”
Sisemore said it took years for her to deal with what Record had done. “He had a lot of control over me,” she said. “He manipulated me into doing things that a normal child would never, ever do. And it took a lot of counseling to get past that.”
Some time after she was released, Sisemore said she went to the cemetery and visited Tami’s grave.
“I had to accept responsibility for myself,” she said. “Because if I hadn’t known her in the first place, they wouldn’t have got that close in order to take her. So I know that’s probably my fault, introducing her, and I have to live with that for the rest of my life, which is fine. And that’s why I try to do my best to live my life right. ... I just try to make a better me because the sick me cost a life.”
Today, Sisemore is an administrative assistant and job developer with Claremont-based Crossroads, which offers transitional housing for recently released female parolees.
When asked about Sisemore’s release from prison, Tami’s brother, Henry Ketchum, said Sisemore had done a lot of time. But while Sisemore was given a second chance, the little girl she lured to murder could never be so fortunate.
“They’ll pay for it when they die,” Ketchum said after reflection. “They’ll face God, and they’ll have to answer for it.”