Crime

SLO skateboard killer to be released from custody

In this March 2005 photo, a San Luis Obispo police officer walks past the home of Gerald O’Malley, who was found dead inside by police.
In this March 2005 photo, a San Luis Obispo police officer walks past the home of Gerald O’Malley, who was found dead inside by police. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

A 24-year-old man who was 13 when he bludgeoned an elderly San Luis Obispo man to death with a skateboard will be released from custody and sent to family in Texas following a ruling Wednesday by SLO Superior Court Judge Linda Hurst.

Though the state’s juvenile parole board has twice recommended Roberto Holguin’s release, California Gov. Jerry Brown has rejected both recommendations, most recently one year ago, citing Holguin’s erratic behavior and threats he made to the governor.

On March 14, the California Juvenile Parole Board again granted Holguin’s early discharge and returned Holguin to the jurisdiction of the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court. This time, Brown declined to reverse the decision.

According to state law, a person can only be incarcerated for a crime they committed as a juvenile until his or her 25th birthday, according to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office. Brown could have elected to keep Holguin in custody another eight months.

With Wednesday’s decision, Holguin will be transported by SLO County Probation to Texas, where he will live with a family member and remain under the supervision of Texas officials until his 25th birthday on Dec. 15, according to the DA’s Office.

In February 2006, Holguin was found guilty in Juvenile Court of first-degree murder with use of a deadly weapon, residential burglary, robbery, elder abuse and vehicle theft in the murder of 87-year-old Gerald O’Malley in O’Malley’s San Luis Obispo mobile home.

After the murder, the teen drew a cartoon devil on a blackboard in O’Malley’s trailer and later padlocked O’Malley’s front door before joyriding in the dead man’s car.

Holguin was tried as a juvenile and sentenced to 42 years to life. However, because of his age, the maximum confinement was about 12 years.

It is our hope that Mr. Holguin is remorseful for his brutal acts, that he fully appreciates his new freedom, and that he will commit himself to living a productive and crime-free life.

San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow

In a statement following Wednesday’s hearing, District Attorney Dan Dow said he hoped that period of supervision would be enough to successfully transition Holguin into independent adult life after being in custody for so long.

“The District Attorney’s Office has done everything we could do from the very beginning in this very disturbing murder case,” Dow wrote. “It is our hope that Mr. Holguin is remorseful for his brutal acts, that he fully appreciates his new freedom, and that he will commit himself to living a productive and crime-free life.”

After Holguin’s 2006 conviction, he was sent to the since-shuttered Southern Youth Correctional Reception Center and Clinic in Norwalk; because of mental health issues, he was later transferred to Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino County.

While at Patton, Brown wrote in his first parole rejection letter, Holguin hacked into a state-owned computer and sent an email directed toward the governor containing vulgar language, included the line: “You better hope i never see you i will shoot you with a real gun,” before concluding, “have a nice day and god bless.”

The email was traced back to Holguin during an investigation by the CHP, the FBI’s Cyber Crimes Task Force and the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

In a search of his room, a journal was found that included “many references to violence, veiled threats regarding a possible attack, lists of pistols, rifles, machine guns, explosives, and tactical gear, an interest in fame, violence and ‘media violence,’ ” Brown wrote.

After Brown’s first parole rejection in 2014, Holguin began to deteriorate psychologically and increasingly showed paranoia, depression and noncompliance with staff direction, the governor wrote in his opinion.

Holguin has also threatened suicide several times, Brown noted, when faced with stressful or difficult circumstances, “including cutting himself with a crucifix and writing ‘kill me’ on the wall in his own blood in 2007, attempting to hang himself and smearing ‘666’ in blood on his door in 2009, and attempting to hang himself and smearing feces on the walls of his room in 2011.”

“Until he shows a more consistent and sustained period of stability and positive behavior ... I do not believe he is ready to be released,” Brown concluded in 2015.

Brown did acknowledge, however, that Holguin has earned a high school diploma and has developed some coping skills through his intensive therapy sessions.

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