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Released by: District Attorney
For Immediate Release

Youthful Killer Denied Early Parole

Santa Rosa, CA  –  January 3, 2018  –  District Attorney Jill Ravitch has announced that inmate Ricky Phonesai Phachanh, now thirty years old, was denied early release on parole by the Board of Prison Terms after a hearing on December 27th at the Ironwood State Prison in Blythe, California. 

On August 1, 2006, Mr. Phachanh pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter with a firearm and admitted a criminal street gang enhancement for the killing of eighteen-year-old Jonathan Townsend in 2002. Phachanh was fifteen-years-old at the time. He was charged as an adult. In exchange for his plea and admissions he received a stipulated term of thirty-one years in state prison.

District Attorney Ravitch stated, “The intentional killing of this unarmed victim was a terrible and senseless crime. Criminal street gangs are dangerous and people who choose to join them risk lengthy incarceration for their crimes. Phachanh admitted that this killing was gang-related even though the victim, Jonathan Townsend, had absolutely no ties to any gang. This killer has yet to earn release back into our community.”

In 2014 California passed a law authorizing “Youth Offender Parole Suitability Hearings” for offenders who committed crimes as minors and were prosecuted as adults. The Board of Parole Hearings conducts these hearings at the state prison facilities in order to determine suitability for early parole. After a lengthy hearing Mr. Phachanh was denied parole for a minimum of another five years.

The charges resulted from Phachanh’s intentional shooting of Mr. Townsend after Phachanh and two fellow gang members were attempting to steal Mr. Townsend’s car. Mr. Townsend approached them and yelled at them to get away from his car. The gang members fled. Townsend gave chase while calling 911 on his cell phone. After a short chase, Phachanh stopped running, turned to face Mr. Townsend and from a distance of fifteen to twenty feet, fired three shots at Townsend with a hand gun. One shot hit Mr. Townsend just above the eye, killing him instantly. 

Phachanh was later arrested in Rochester, Minnesota where he had fled shortly after the killing. He was originally tried for murder as an adult in 2004, but the jury could not reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared. In 2006, Phachanh entered his no contest plea and admissions of gun use and gang involvement in exchange for a stipulated sentence of thirty-one years in prison.

The parole hearing was handled by Chief Deputy Spencer Brady. Santa Rosa Police Department headed the investigation.

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