On Thursday, convicted Fresno murderer Craig Simpson will walk free from the Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo after serving more than two decades in prison.
Clovis resident Marylin Pages, the mother of the victim, isn’t happy about it.
“I’m just enraged in general at the soft treatment these cold blooded killers get,” she said. “It’s like they have all the rights and the families have none. It’s frustrating to us law-abiding citizens.”
In late 1993, Fresno County Superior Court jurors convicted Simpson, then 33, of second-degree murder in the death of Jacquelyn Simpson, who was his wife and Pages’ daughter. He was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
A year earlier, Fresno police had responded to the Simpsons’ home in the 4600 block of East Norwich Avenue shortly after 6 a.m. When they arrived, officers found a badly beaten Jacquelyn Simpson. Craig Simpson was found unconscious. Their two children, who were 8 and 5 and who had heard their mother and father screaming behind a locked bedroom door, were unharmed.
Authorities said Simpson beat his wife to death with a claw hammer.
For years, Pages battled to keep Simpson behind bars. She attended parole hearings in 2002, 2006, 2009 and 2012. But she was sick and missed one last December. At that hearing, the state Board of Parole Hearings recommended Simpson’s release.
Gov. Jerry Brown took no action to reverse the parole board’s decision, and he cannot reverse it at this point.
Pages turned 80 earlier this month, and she said it was exhausting to constantly fight to keep Simpson behind bars. At past parole hearings, family members and friends of her daughter wrote letters to the parole board. But Pages’ family has scattered across the nation and it got increasingly hard to stay vigilant about the case. After the third parole hearing, she didn’t even bother asking people to write.
“I felt like a voice crying in the wilderness,” Pages said. “I don’t have a cadre of family behind me like that. It makes a difference if you make a big hue and cry.”
She received a call last week from a prison official in San Luis Obispo telling her Simpson would be released on Thursday and would move to the Los Angeles area.
Simpson’s parole situation appears to be similar with that of David Weidert, who was convicted in the 1980 murder of mentally disabled Mike Morganti and has also been recommended for parole. Brown still can reverse that decision. A change in state law that gave the crime’s severity less weight as time went by because it also took into account actions while in prison appears to have benefited both Weidert and Simpson.
Weidert took classes while in prison and made other steps that could be presented to the parole board. Pages said Simpson earned a college degree.
“He’s smart enough to jump through the hoops they want you to jump through in prison,” Pages said.
Fresno County District Attorney Lisa A. Smittcamp thinks Simpson is still a danger to society and should not be released from prison.
On Jan. 15 — not long after she’d taken office — she sent Brown a letter asking him to “continue (Simpson’s) life sentence for this senseless crime while his children were yelling at the door begging him to stop. After the crime he feigned insanity.”
Smittcamp’s letter said Simpson has a history of depression and met the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder in the past. At the December parole hearing, the letter said Simpson continued to blame his wife and denies that he snapped.
Now age 54 and with experience as a salesman, Smittcamp’s letter says Simpson “is likely to enter into another relationship with a woman and it is this segment of the population that this office is concerned about and believes that he remains a risk.”
Pages says Simpson is young enough to start a new life once he is released from prison. In the meantime, his now 31-year-old son and 28-year-old daughter have struggled for years and are still affected by the tragedy — and her daughter is buried at the Clovis Cemetery.