Parole denied for man who killed Arroyo Grande girl in 1979

Tami Carpenter
Tami Carpenter

Parole was denied Wednesday for one of four people convicted of murdering a 10-year-old girl who was set to testify at a 1979 molestation trial.

After a daylong hearing at the California Institution for Men in Chino, the board found Hilton Tripp, 53, unsuitable for parole. Convicted of first-degree murder, Tripp won’t be eligible for another hearing for three years.

In one of the county’s most publicized crime cases, Tripp was convicted of murdering Tami Carpenter of Arroyo Grande.

Tami was scheduled to testify in a molestation trial against 53-year-old William Record. Record paid three people a total of $1,000 to prevent her from taking the stand.

BranDee (Tripp) Sisemore, a friend of Tami’s family, lured the girl to a store where 17-year-olds Randy Cook and Tripp, Sisemore’s husband, waited for them.

Tripp and Cook took the girl to a makeshift campsite near Avila Hot Springs. There, they severely beat her, then wrapped a rope around her throat and pulled the rope until Tami died.

After the killers buried her near their tent, Tripp took a lock of Tami’s hair to his wife to prove she was dead.

In an interview before the hearing, Henry Ketchum, Tami’s brother, said, “I can’t imagine looking into her eyes at that last moment — the thought that she had.”

Ketchum, 38, along with a brother and an older sister, attended the hearing Wednesday. A deputy prosecutor from the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office also attended to contest Tripp’s release from prison.

Prior to the hearing, Ketchum said he wrote a letter that he planned to read to the board.

He could have just submitted the letter, but Ketchum said he wanted to face his sister’s killer for the first time.

“It’s going to be hard to see him because of what he did,” said Ketchum, who lives in San Luis Obispo. “But I want to see his face.”

The crime has impacted Ketchum and his family for more than three decades, he said.

“They’ve been the boogeyman that has haunted me for years,” he said.

Had Tripp taken a few seconds to think about what he was about to do, Ketchum said, Tripp might have reconsidered.

“And the fact that he cut off a piece of her hair to give to William (Record) — that’s just morbid,” he said. “It’s almost like a trophy.”

Tami’s childhood friend, Barbara Mullikin, wrote a letter to the parole board that began, “A penny for your thoughts” — a favorite expression of Tami’s.

She said before the hearing that she doesn’t want Tripp to forget Tami or the murder.

“I hope it makes him sick when he thinks about it,” she said. “That would show he’s human.”

“I feel bad for his family,” Mullikin continued. “I know they miss their brother. But that doesn’t mean I want to share society with him. They murdered my friend.”

She is currently raising funds to start Tami’s Teddies, a project that would provide stuffed teddy bears to police and firefighters, which they in turn would give to victims of child abuse.

Tami’s Teddies, which can be found on Facebook, would feature a heart and an apple — Tami loved apples — with a penny sewn inside.

Record, convicted of second-degree murder, died in 1985. Cook, convicted of first-degree murder, was denied parole in May. Sisemore, of Claremont, was released in 2008 after her 21st hearing.

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