Jerry Michael Wade
Jerry Michael Wade

[UPDATED with Parole Denied:] Jerry Michael Wade Poses Risk to Public Safety, DA Says of 64-Year-Old Inmate in Wheelchair

UPDATE, JULY 12, 5:07 P.M.: Score another victory for District Attorney Tony Rackauckas when it comes to keeping a killer locked up.

The state prison's parole board in Vacaville denied parole today for Jerry Michael Wade, 64, who shot and killed a complete stranger he was attempting to rob on an Orange street in 1972.

Wade will be eligible for his next parole hearing in 2014.

ORIGINAL POST, JULY 12, 8:47 A.M.: As part of its Life in Prison special series, San Diego public television station KPBS sent journalists to the California Medical Facility in Vacaville. Producer Angela Carone snapped photos of elderly inmates for the program that aired in January. Jerry Michael Wade was among those Carone captured to illustrate California's rising population of inmates over 55.

Sixty-four-year-old Wade is now getting a differnt kind of attention: Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Alison Gyves appears at a Vacaville hearing today to oppose Wade's parole.

Gyves will cite Wade's criminal history before he was put away nearly 39 years ago, and his "turbulent and excessive disciplinary record and recidivistic tendencies." He still poses a significant risk to public safety and should not be released, according to Gyves' boss, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.

Wade would be putting the public at risk from a wheelchair, assuming he still needs one as much as he did when Carone snapped the photo of him after the break . . .

Jerry Michael Wade poses for a PBS producer covering the rising population of California inmates over 55.
Jerry Michael Wade poses for a PBS producer covering the rising population of California inmates over 55.
Photo by Angela Carone/KPBS

Wade's life of crime certainly won't help him before the parole board. He had already been busted for burglaries in Anaheim and Santa Ana in 1969 when he pleaded guilty to knock a two-year state prison sentence to probation and a year in the county jail. But he escaped from Orange County Jail on May 30, 1970, and stole a vehicle from a used car dealership before being captured and having his probation revoked a short time later.

The burglaries and escape resulted in a sentence of six months to 20 years in state prison on July 29, 1970. While at the California Department of Corrections' Don Lugo Community Center in San Bernardino County, he was allowed to participate in a work furlough program. 

While on leave from the work furlough program on Jan. 21, 1972, then-25-year-old Wade, William Cartwright and Susan Sutcliffe pulled into an Orange apartment complex and confronted Gerald and Karen Mitchell, a married couple who were standing on the sidewalk with their dog. Wade demanded Gerald Mitchell's wallet and Sutcliffe demanded Karen Mitchell's purse.

Gerald Mitchell, 25, handed over his wallet, but his wife explained she had no purse. Sutcliffe then pushed Karen Mitchell, and Gerald Mitchell came to her defense by shoving Sutcliffe. Wade then threatened to kill Mitchell if he acted again. When Karen Mitchell tried to get the wallet back, Wade shot Gerald Mitchell with a .22 revolver, hitting him in the chest. Sutcliffe and Wade then fled in the car driven by Cartwright.

Wade checked back into the Don Lugo Community Center early in the next morning, but he and Cartwright fled for Arizona when he got another work permit the day after that. He turned himself in to police in Phoenix a few days later, and Wade, Sutcliffe and Cartwright were ultimately indicted for Mitchell's murder.

Orange County Deputy District Attorney James Enright originally prosecuted Wade, who was sentenced on April 19, 1972, to seven years to life in state prison for one felony count of first degree murder with a 5-year sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a firearm during the commission of a robbery. 

Wade is scheduled to go before the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations' Board of Parole Hearings at 1:30 this afternoon at Vacaville. Here are reasons the board will be told Wade should stay there:

  • While incarcerated, he has amassed 37 major violations, including six counts of contraband, four counts of possession of stimulants and sedatives, four counts of possession of pruno, two counts of, smoking, sexual behavior, receiving compensation for legal services, refusing direct orders, misconduct, and disobeying orders. He also incurred one count each of major violations including conduct that led to violence, intent to falsify, refusing assigned duty, refusing to obey orders, theft, possession of unissued property, behavior, possession of sealing wax, stealing of state food, refusing to work, and falsifying documents.
  • Over the same time, Wade has amassed 17 minor violations, including five counts of contraband, two counts of possession of minor contraband, and one count each of, attempting to manipulate medical staff, failing to report to testing, smoking, disobeying orders, misuse of state food, refusing to work, possession of volatile liquids, conduct, and being in an unauthorized area. The inmate's last violation was in 2010, which indicates an inability to follow the rules even after almost 40 years in prison.
  • From the time of his conviction until 2003, Wade placed blame on Mitchell for grabbing his weapon. Then his story changed to "a vague account posing the victim as the aggressor, resulting in the gun being fired amidst a small scuffle," according to the OCDA, which notes, "Only in 2008, did the inmate take full responsibility for his actions.


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