I’m asking the community to help me block parole for a Madeline Plains killer

I’ve been living here in Lassen County more than a quarter century, and I always scoffed at the popular notion the state government ignores and abuses the interests of those of us in the northeastern portion of the state. I completely understand the differences between the needs of those in urban areas and those of us who choose to live in such a beautiful rural setting here in Lassen County. I believe in America and the great ideals our nation stands for, but recently that faith has been shaken to the core, and I’m finally leaning pretty darn hard toward that troubling opinion I once so strongly resisted. Some say our Democrat leaders in Sacramento treat us as they do simply because we are the reddest county in the state. That’s troubling, and I find it hard to accept our elected leaders would be so disingenuous and petty to retaliate and punish us for our political preferences.

First there was the effort by CDCR to shut down Morning Glory Dairy. Thankfully, we won that one. Then came the battle over the closure of the California Correctional Center. The state legislature simply changed the law to short-circuit the city’s lawsuit to keep the prison open when it became likely the city was going to win. I’m going to be angry and disgusted about that action as long as I live. Frankly, I want to spit every time it crosses my mind because that conduct was so unfair, unrighteous and un-American. And please don’t even get me started on the wildfire/fire insurance thing. Then just a few days ago the state granted parole to Joseph Shelton, one of the convicted murderers of Laura Craig and Kevin Thorpe on the Madeline Plains in the winter of 1981. And now the state wants to consider granting parole to the second convicted murderer, Benjamin Silva (CDCR No. C44400).

I think of myself as a liberal (although the other writers in the Lassen County Times newsroom frequently commented I’m more conservative than I think I am), but no amount of liberal thinking or misshapen view of leniency can justify releasing these cold-blooded and heartless predators from custody. Shelton is out, and we can’t do anything about that now, but maybe, just maybe, we can make enough noise and stink in Sacramento to keep Silva behind bars for the rest of his life.

Silva, a fugitive Hells Angel at the time, saw Thorpe and Craig as they worked to repair a wheel on their trailer as they drove north on Highway 139 on their way back to college in Oregon. Silva lusted after Craig, and reportedly said, “I gotta get me some of that.” Silva, Shelton and Norman Thomas lay in wait down the road and after dark they put a red light on top of their car to make the couple believe they were being stopped by law enforcement. Silva took control of the couple’s vehicle and drove them to his residence as Shelton and Thomas followed.

They shot the couple’s dog. They stripped Thorpe and chained him to a tree outside in the freezing cold. Then they turned their evil intent on Craig and repeatedly had their way with her. The next morning, they shot and killed Thorpe by unloading bullets from two machine gun magazines into him. They dismembered him and scattered his body in plastic bags in several locations, allegedly at Silva’s orders. After a few days of taking turns raping Craig, they drove her to an isolated location, shot and killed her and left her body in a ditch alongside the road.

I did not live in Lassen County in 1981. I did not know Thorpe or Craig. But I hear them calling out to me and pleading for me to help ensure justice be done. I ask you to join me in answering that call. The people who took the lives of this young couple in such a brutal way and for such an unholy and unthinkable purpose do not deserve to ever walk freely among us.

You may express your indignity at Silva’s parole hearing by writing to the Board of Parole Hearings, ATTN: Prehearing Correspondence, PO Box 4036, Sacramento, CA 95812-4036.

Of course, California Governor Gavin Newsom has the authority to block Silva’s parole. His address is Governor Gavin Newsom, 1021 O Street, Sacramento, CA 95814. His phone number is (916) 445-2841.