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Released by: District Attorney
For Immediate Release

Serial Killer Denied Parole

Santa Rosa, CA  –  June 2, 2020  –  District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced today that on May 27, 2020, the California Board of Prison Terms denied parole to 69 year old Michael Carson, who, along with his wife Susan Carson, was convicted in the early 1980’s of committing three separate murders in the counties of Sonoma, San Francisco and Humboldt.   

District Attorney Ravitch stated, “This man’s crimes demonstrated a clear lack of conscience and a disregard for human life. Carson still remains a danger to the public, so it is very appropriate that he remain imprisoned for at least another ten years.”

On January 12, 1983, victim Jon Charles Hellyar, who was 30 years old at the time, was shot in the head twice by Michael Carson and stabbed by Susan Carson during the murder, which occurred on River Road in Fulton. The Carsons murdered the victim because they believed he was a powerful witch that had to be killed.

On April 24, 1982, victim Clark Stephens was shot by Michael Carson in Humboldt County after a dispute about marijuana cultivation. The Carsons similarly believed Stephens was a witch and also needed to be killed. Following the murder the Carsons burned and covered Stephens’ body with chicken manure in a shallow grave near Alderpoint.

On March 7, 1981, the body of victim Keryn Barnes was found in her apartment in San Francisco. Investigators determined that Barnes died as a result of 13 stab wounds and a fractured skull. During that murder Carson used a blunt object to strike the victim in the head numerous times and a knife to stab her. 

Wednesday’s hearing was held via Skype to determine whether Carson currently remains an unreasonable risk of harm to the public or should be released back into the community on a grant of parole.  Though Carson was sentenced to three separate terms of 25 years to life, recent changes in state parole law meant that Carson was eligible to request Elder Parole (the requirements being that he had served more than 25 years of his sentence and was older than 60 years of age.)

After reviewing prison files and psychiatric evaluations, hearing testimony from the victims’ family, and hearing arguments from both Carson’s attorney and district attorney representatives from Sonoma, San Francisco, and Humboldt Counties, the Board issued a ten year denial of parole.

Deputy District Attorney Javier Vaca appeared on behalf of the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office at the hearing in opposition to Carson’s release on parole.

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Contact Information

Brandon Gilbert
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Office of the District Attorney
County of Sonoma
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