[UPDATED with Denials:] Gilbert Lovato and Robert Eugene Williams, Execution-Style Murderers from the '70s, Seek Paroles
UPDATE, JULY 29, 8:30 A.M.: The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations' Thursday denied the paroles of Gilbert Lovato and Robert Eugene Williams, who were convicted of execution-style murders and other crimes in Orange County during the 1970s.
Lovato, 53, will next be eligible for a parole hearing in 2018, while 58-year-old Williams can convene the board again in three years.
When it came to Lovato, the board may have been swayed by an Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) letter that stated, "the inmate has poor institutional behavior . . . and has not achieved the progress expected of someone who has remained institutionalized for over 33 years. The inmate was admonished since his first parole hearing in 1989 to develop a marketable skill or upgrade vocationally and participate in self-help. In 33 years of incarceration, the inmate has done neither."
Williams' drug and alcohol abuse and lack of plans to reside at a live-in rehabilitation facility upon being released contributed to the board's decision against his parole, according to the OCDA.
ORIGINAL POST, JULY 28, 12:49 P.M.: You'd think a guy who: stole a motorcycle from a shop; robbed a doughnut shop with a sawed-off shotgun; kidnapped a woman who managed to get away; kidnapped another woman and her 2-year-old son before raping and executing her in front of the boy; fled the area in a stolen van; led a high-speed chase during which he fired three shots at pursuing patrol officers (with the same gun he used to murder the woman); only surrendered after holing up in a restaurant where he took hostages and fired his gun into the ceiling; and was later convicted by a jury of doing all these things in the same month--you'd surely think that guy would rot in prison (if he was not executed first).
And yet, that guy--who continued his crime spree in prison--is asking for his parole this afternoon.
Gilbert Lovato, 53, is one of two inmates being held for murder at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione that are having their possible paroles challenged today by Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. The other is 58-year-old Robert Eugene Williams, who wrongly executed a friend he thought had "snitched" to police about the killer selling drugs.
Both sets of crimes that landed the men at Mule Creek happened in the 1970s.
From the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) statement opposing Lovato's parole:
Lovato, then-18 years old, went on a violent crime spree in December 1976, committing grand theft, firearm theft, robbery and kidnapping with the use of a firearm. On Dec. 11, 1976, Lovato and an accomplice stole two motorcycles from Draco's Motorcycle Shop in Santa Ana. The inmate and his accomplice also robbed a storekeeper at a Santa Ana doughnut shop using a sawed-off shotgun and took approximately $40 cash. On the night of Dec. 13, 1976, Lovato approached a 25-year-old woman in a store parking lot and asked her for a ride to a gas station. He walked with her and asked her repeatedly for a ride until she finally agreed. As she drove out of the parking lot, Lovato held a knife to the victim's ribs and ordered her to drive. As she drove along, the victim realized they were being followed. When they came to a stop, a male co-defendant approached the car on the passenger side and gave Lovato a sawed-off shotgun. The victim jumped out of the car and ran away to escape. She was picked up by other motorists and the kidnap was immediately reported to police.
Kidnapping-Murder of Maria Padilla
On Dec.17, 1976, at approximately 10:30 p.m., 22-year-old Maria Padilla and her 2-year-old son left for the bank so she could deposit her paycheck. They never returned home. Lovato kidnapped Padilla and her son from their van and drove them to an isolated location in San Juan Capistrano that he was using to hide from police. Lovato raped and then executed Padilla by shooting her in the head while her son watched.
Lovato left the victim's half-naked dead body and her helpless son on the side of the highway. For the next two days the victim's son slept on her body and wandered the highway until he and his mother's lifeless body were found. Police had been searching for Padilla and her son because the victim's husband had filed a missing persons report.
After the inmate's violent kidnap, rape and execution of Padilla, Lovato fled to his hometown in New Mexico in the victim's stolen van. On Dec. 27, 1976, Santa Fe police received a request to help locate the van and the inmate by the Orange County Sheriff's Department. When Lovato realized he was spotted by patrol officers, he led police on a high-speed pursuit. The inmate fired three shots at police officers using the same gun used to murder Padilla. The pursuit ended at a restaurant, where Lovato held the restaurant patrons hostage and fired his gun at the ceiling. The inmate eventually surrendered after Special Weapons and Tactics officers arrived at the scene.
While admitted in Las Vegas State Mental Hospital in 1977, Lovato escaped and fled to California, where he was later apprehended. Four years later, while in custody here in Orange County, he participated in the violent sexual attack and sodomy of an inmate well known to long-time Weekly readers: the late Dwayne McKinney, who then-Deputy DA Tony Rackauckas wrongly helped put behind bars for a robbery-murder McKinney did not commit.
Facts of the Case
In the evening of Nov. 7, 1970, Williams, then-18 years old, went to a female friend's house, co-defendant Martha Riggs. He asked to borrow Riggs' father's .22 caliber pistol to murder 18-year-old Robert Hermann, a friend he wrongly believed had "snitched" to police that he was selling drugs, which had led to his arrest a month earlier. The inmate then armed himself with the firearm and went to Hermann's home. He gained entry because Herman trusted him as a friend. Once inside the victim's room, even after Hermann denied telling police about Williams' drug transactions, the inmate shot him one time in the shoulder. He then put a pillow over Hermann's face and fired the fatal second shot into the victim's head before fleeing the scene.
After the murder, Williams went back to Riggs' house to return the gun and bragged about murdering Hermann. At approximately 10:00 p.m. that evening, the victim's parents returned home to find their son bleeding from his head due to the gunshot wounds inflicted by the inmate and called 911.
The victim was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival due massive brain hemorrhaging caused by the close-range gunshot wound.
HBPD officers arrived at the scene and investigated the case. A day later, Williams was arrested by police after Riggs turned over the firearm the inmate used to murder Hermann.
Riggs was also charged and convicted in this case.
Williams pleaded guilty Jan. 28, 1971, to one felony count of first degree murder and one felony count of conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to life in state prison. Deputy District Attorney Israel Claustro was scheduled to appear at this morning's Mule Creek hearing to oppose Williams' parole on grounds that "the nature of the crime, inmate's criminal history, recidivistic tendencies, and well-documented drug abuse and addiction" are evidence of "the significant risk he poses public safety and therefore he should not be released," reads the OCDA statement.
Claustro was also to present letters from Anita Lester, the victim's sister, and Huntington Beach Police Chief Kenneth Small.
Lester wrote that her "family is still in pain due to the murder of my brother, Robert Hermann. I continue to live in fear of Williams being released and strongly urge that he never be paroled."
Small communicated that, "Robert Williams has not accepted full responsibility for killing Robert Hermann. He has not shown remorse for the murder. Robert Williams poses a threat to society if released. The Huntington Beach Police Department opposes any parole or any type of leniency for Robert Williams. Williams should serve his entire sentence for killing Hermann."
Claustro is doing double-duty today, also appearing this afternoon at Mule Creek to oppose the parole of Lovato, who was sentenced May 15, 1981, to life in state prison for one felony count of first degree murder with a 6-year sentencing enhancement for the use of a firearm. She will argue Lovato "has shown no remorse or insight into the murder he committed and continues to deny any involvement in the kidnapping, rape and murder of a mother while her son watched," states the OCDA.
His criminal history before and after the crime, ongoing violent and extensive disciplinary record, lack of remorse for the murder and lack of vocational training mean Lovato "poses a significant risk to public safety and should not be released into the community," the OCDA adds.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Orange County, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.