Today, the district attorney offices of Orange and Riverside counties tag-teamed to help stop a 54-year-old man from being paroled for the rapes and murders of his stepmother and a friend's mother when he was 17.
California Department of
Corrections and Rehabilitation's Board of Parole Hearings ultimately denied the release of Gregory
Coates, formerly of Rubidoux and now of the California
Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo.
Coates, who doused one victim's body in gasoline and set it on fire, will next be eligible for a
parole hearing in 2021.
On Jan. 22, 1975, Coates burglarized the Riverside home of Jean Marie Stephens, his friend's 37-year-old mother, in an attempt to steal and sell firearms. When she discovered him in the home, he
knocked her down with a dumbbell, raped her and bit her stomach
over her screams for help. Using one of the stolen guns, Coates
then shot her twice in the head, murdering her. The woman's 11-year-old daughter later found her mother's nude, battered body
in a pool of blood.
On May 4, 1975, Coates raped his 48-year-old stepmother Betty Coates in
her Orange County home before bludgeoning and suffocating her to death,
wrapping her body in towels, dousing her in gasoline and setting her on
He claimed his stepmom reluctantly agreed to have sex with him, and that
he killed her because she threatened to tell her father about the
tryst. The jury did not buy it, convicting him of rape and murder in
Meanwhile, the ongoing murder investigation later linking Coates to the
earlier Riverside crimes, which a Riverside County jury convicted him of
committing in June 1976. As a 17-year-old at the time of the double
rapes/double murders, 1975-76 sentencing guidelines drew him a sentence
of 12 years to life in state prison.
District Attorney Matt Lockhart, expressing the wishes of Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, and Deputy District
Attorney Judy Beck, on behalf of her boss, Riverside District
Attorney Paul Zellerbach, appeared before the parole board to
oppose Coates' release. The prosecutors were joined by several members
of Stephens' family as there are apparently no living relatives of Betty
In denying Coates' parole, the board cited his continued failure to
accept responsibility for the rapes, lack of credibility due to
inconsistent versions of his crimes over the years, and the threat posed
to women if released, according to a statement from the OCDA.