Santa Rosa, CA – September 16, 2016 – Johnny Lee Sommerhalder, 73-years-old of Santa Rosa, was denied parole by the California Parole Board for an additional three years on September 15, 2016. This is the fourteenth time the inmate has been denied parole since his incarceration for a murder committed in 1968.
District Attorney Ravitch stated, “This predator committed horrific acts that resulted in multiple life sentences. We have argued, and will continue to argue at every parole hearing going forward, that justice demands his lifetime incarceration.”
In 1965, the inmate went to prison for an assault with a deadly weapon. In 1966, the inmate was released from prison and placed on parole. On October 7, 1967, while still on parole, the inmate was out driving with three friends in Santa Rosa at approximately 4:00 a.m. when he came upon Charles Kaufmann and Mr. Kaufmann’s girlfriend. Mr. Kaufmann and his girlfriend were parked. The inmate approached Mr. Kaufmann on the driver’s side while his friend approached the girlfriend on the passenger’s side. The inmate pointed a handgun at the couple and ordered them to cover their heads with their sweaters and step out of the vehicle.
Mr. Kaufmann was a champion wrestler at Santa Rosa Junior College. Once out of the car, Mr. Kaufmann flipped the inmate to the ground. The friend ran to assist and began striking Mr. Kaufmann. Mr. Kaufmann then flipped the friend to the ground, but ultimately, the inmate shot Mr. Kaufmann twice in the back shoulder and once in the head. With Mr. Kaufmann dead, the girlfriend was kidnapped and driven to a remote location on Calistoga Road where she was repeatedly raped and left naked and bound to a tree.
Just three months later, on January, 12, 1968, the inmate and one associate went to the Ackley residence in Marin County. The inmate and his associate were burglarizing the residence when the couple returned home. Mr. Ackley was bound and his eyes taped shut. He was moved to the rear of the residence and shot four times behind the ear. Mrs. Ackley was stripped naked, bound, taped and repeatedly raped. She was then strangled, shot and stabbed in the back. When the police arrived, the knife was still in Mrs. Ackley’s back.
The inmate was arrested a couple days later after a shootout with law enforcement.
In 1968, the inmate was convicted by jury trial in Marin County of the murder of Mr. and Mrs. Ackley. The jury sentenced the inmate to death. Then the inmate was transferred to Sonoma County where he pled guilty to the first degree murder of Mr. Kaufmann for a concurrent life sentence. In 1972, when the Supreme Court of the State of California abolished the death penalty, the inmate’s sentence was reduced to 7 years-to-life.
The lifer hearing was handled by Deputy District Attorney Chris Honigsberg.