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Oregon’s governor is being criticized for pardoning a murderer who shot a victim in the head because he feared she’d reveal his crimes – the Governor also failed to tell the victim’s family about killer’s release.

In 1994, Kyle Hedquist led a teenager down a remote logging road, then shot her in the back of the head because he feared she might tell police about burglaries he committed.

This month, Oregon Governor Kate Brown granted clemency to Hedquist, who was serving a life sentence without parole after being convicted of murdering Nikki Thrasher when he was 17. Brown’s act is unleashing a storm of criticism from prosecutors and law enforcement and even from the victim’s mother. 

‘He took the life of my daughter in cold blood. It was a cold-blooded murder. He planned it,’ Holly Thrasher, who wasn’t even aware of Hedquist’s clemency, told KOIN 6. ‘I am upset. I wasn’t even told.’ 

She also said she was never asked her opinion on his release, despite Brown’s recent statement ‘always’ reaching out to victim’s families so that the ‘victim can have a voice.’  

Thrasher also said she worries for her and her son’s safety now that her daughter’s killer is free, according to KOIN 6.  

Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said on Tuesday: ‘The executive clemency granted by Governor Brown in this case is shocking and irresponsible.’ Hedquist, now 45, was convicted in Douglas County Circuit Court in 1995.

The county refused to allow Hedquist to return there after being granted clemency due to community safety concerns. 

In a detailed letter to the Governor, Douglas County District Attorney Richard Wesenberg said Hedquist was ‘uninterested in having his version of events be based in reality.’

‘There are thousands of pages of discovery on this case, and yet large swaths of Hedquist’s petition are completely unsupported by any of them. In fact, many statements fly in the face of the evidence,’ he wrote. 

Oregon Governor Kate Brown faces backlash after granting a killer clemency and neglecting to inform the victim’s family. She justified his release by saying he was a teen when he killed another teenager and that criminals can ‘grow and change’  

‘This office has concerns that clemency for Mr. Hedquist will erode faith in the justice system. Specifically, clemency for Hedquist will demonstrate that a life sentence without the possibility of parole does not really mean a true-life sentence.’ 

Even Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson agreed, saying ‘these types of decisions are not reflective of public safety, they’re not reflective of good decisions.’ She also said the decision would erode citizen’s sense of justice and ‘tell them [that] they don’t matter, that these offenders are being prioritized over them and over what happens to them, their families, and what is appropriate for public safety,’

‘We need victims to trust us. We need them to participate. We need them to be willing to come to court and to hang in there with us,’ she told KOIN 6. She also said Brown’s direction ‘is putting the average citizen and our state at risk.’ 

Marion County denied the Governor’s Office to release the killer to an address in their jurisdictions as well. This month, Hedquist was released to the Salem home of a former prison chaplain after a suitable place could not be found for him in Douglas or Marion Counties, 

Clarkson and Sheriff Joe Kast, whose county includes Salem, issued a public safety notice on Saturday in which they expressed ‘significant safety concerns surrounding the sudden and ill-planned governor’s commutation.’

Kyle Hedquist (pictured) killed Nikki Thrasher when he was 17 in 1994. He led the teenager down a remote logging road, then shot her in the back of the head because he feared she might tell police about burglaries he committed

Kyle Hedquist (pictured) killed Nikki Thrasher when he was 17 in 1994. He led the teenager down a remote logging road, then shot her in the back of the head because he feared she might tell police about burglaries he committed

Kyle Hedquist (pictured) killed Nikki Thrasher when he was 17 in 1994. He led the teenager down a remote logging road, then shot her in the back of the head because he feared she might tell police about burglaries he committed

‘Hedquist tricked the victim into driving him to a rural Douglas County location where he shot the victim execution-style in the back of the head and dumped her body along the road,’ Clarkson and Kast said. ‘Hedquist admitted killing her to eliminate a witness in hope of preventing his own capture.’

Clarkson also told KOIN 6: ‘This particular release into this community just seemed inappropriate for Marion County and wasn’t done with the appropriate protocol and the proper risk assessment and safety measures in place. The only thing that my sheriff and I were left to do was just let people know that it was happening.’  

Brown, however, defended her clemencies, comparing them to President Joe Biden.,79, who granted clemency to 78 people on Tuesday, though those were all for nonviolent crimes.

‘Teenagers, even those who have committed terrible crimes, have a unique capacity for growth and change,’ Brown said in social media posts in which she applauded Biden’s action, adding: ‘We are a state and a nation of second chances.’

The US Supreme Court, in a 2012 ruling, said only the rare, irredeemable juvenile offender should serve life in prison, but that applies in federal cases.

Some two dozen states have banned sentencing juveniles to life without parole, according to the Washington DC-based Sentencing Project, which advocates for humane responses to crime. The Democrat-dominated Oregon Legislature passed such a law in 2019, but the state Supreme Court has ruled it’s not retroactive.

The clemency of Hedquist has fueled Republican complaints that Brown, a Democrat who is not running for reelection this year because of term limits, is soft on crime.

‘As with many others, the facts of this case is outrageous and brutal,’ Oregon Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp said on Tuesday. ‘The Governor continues to let violent criminals out of prison, and Democrats in the majority remain silent.’

However, Brown said she has denied most clemency requests.

Marion County DA Paige Clarkson (pictured) slammed Brown's decision, saying it's makes the public distrust the justice system. She also denied allowing Hedquist to come back to the county upon his release due to safety issues

Marion County DA Paige Clarkson (pictured) slammed Brown's decision, saying it's makes the public distrust the justice system. She also denied allowing Hedquist to come back to the county upon his release due to safety issues

Marion County DA Paige Clarkson (pictured) slammed Brown’s decision, saying it’s makes the public distrust the justice system. She also denied allowing Hedquist to come back to the county upon his release due to safety issues 

‘Clemency is an action I reserve for individuals who have demonstrated that they have made incredible changes in their lives to rehabilitate themselves, take accountability for their crimes, and dedicate themselves to making their communities a better place,’ Brown said.

While locked up in the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem, Hedquist spent over 20 years volunteering for hospice care services, said Liz Merah, Brown’s spokeswoman.

Hedquist wrote about caring for the dying inmates in a piece that was awarded ‘honorable mention in memoir’ in PEN America’s 2019 Prison Writing Contest.

‘I couldn’t have known all those years ago that death would bring my humanity back,’ Hedquist wrote. ‘So I sat, I listened, their teary-eyed regurgitation of their crimes burned my ears, they left a bitter taste in my mouth as I consumed the confessions…but somehow just being with them and listening lightened their burden before death stepped in to take them.’

Brown also accused ‘several district attorneys’ of scoring political points by stoking public fears in these cases. Oregonians granted clemency have demonstrated they have turned their lives around and pose a low risk to the public, she said.

The governor was seen hugging President Joe Biden, 79, at the Portland International Airport on April 21

The governor was seen hugging President Joe Biden, 79, at the Portland International Airport on April 21

The governor was seen hugging President Joe Biden, 79, at the Portland International Airport on April 21

The governor recently praised Biden for issuing 78 clemencies to nonviolent offenders. In her statement, she also said that she 'always' reached out to victim's families so that 'victims can have a voice,' despite not reaching out to Nikki's mother, who wasn't even informed of her daughter's killer's release

The governor recently praised Biden for issuing 78 clemencies to nonviolent offenders. In her statement, she also said that she 'always' reached out to victim's families so that 'victims can have a voice,' despite not reaching out to Nikki's mother, who wasn't even informed of her daughter's killer's release

The governor recently praised Biden for issuing 78 clemencies to nonviolent offenders. In her statement, she also said that she ‘always’ reached out to victim’s families so that ‘victims can have a voice,’ despite not reaching out to Nikki’s mother, who wasn’t even informed of her daughter’s killer’s release 

Merah, Brown’s spokeswoman, said Hedquist’s conditions of sentence commutation include lifetime supervision and GPS ankle monitoring for at least six months.

‘If Mr. Hedquist violates any terms of his post-prison supervision, the governor can revoke his commutation,’ Merah said.

Since taking office in 2015, Brown has granted 1,148 sentence commutations – 963 of them to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in prisons, Merah said. Also among the total were 41 commutations for inmates who fought wildfires and 72 who committed crimes as juveniles and were sentenced to more than 15 years. Brown also granted 63 pardons. Commutations reduce prison terms, while pardons forgive defendants of crimes.

Source: Daily Mail

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