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Nevada City, Calif. January 11, 2019 – The State Parole Board recommended convicted murderer Thomas Driver for parole after a hearing on January 8, 2018. Deputy DA Oliver Pong attended the hearing via teleconference to argue against his release on behalf of the people.
Thomas Driver was convicted of the shotgun murder of Clyde Harrell on 1988 and was sentenced to 17 years to life in prison. Driver was 21 years old at the time and had already earned a score of convictions for theft, forgery, and multiple burglaries. He was on the run from warrants hitchhiking from Redding to Sacramento with a fellow traveler Shawn Sharp about September 14, 1988, when they were picked up by Clyde Harrell in his motorhome. According to police investigations, Harrell offered them a job working his gold mining venture. The three of them spent several days prospecting when Driver and Harrell began drinking and sniffing glue. After Harrell went to sleep in his motorhome, Driver used a shotgun to shoot Harrell in the head killing him. Driver and Sharp then buried the body and stole Harrell’s motorhome along with various personal property like cashier’s checks, tools guns, and cash. After the motorhome broke down in Folsom, they called the police and confessed to the murder.
Driver gave multiple reason for murdering Harrell and Deputy DA Pong used prior parole hearing transcripts to contradict Driver’s description of the crime at yesterday’s hearing to demonstrate his continued aversion to accepting responsibility for his crime and apparent lying. Pong also asked the parole board commissioners to review Driver’s comprehensive risk assessment that described Driver as an inmate who “repeatedly failed on supervised release” and that only time will tell if Driver “will adequately overcome the full measure of his character faults.” Pong summarized the crime as “blowing the man’s brains out” and that a short denial will show whether Driver can demonstrate his ability to be crime free and non-violent if and when he faces life outside of prison. The board also went over in detail Driver’s numerous prison violations for fighting, drugs, and making prison alcohol.
The parole board balanced his murder committed when Driver was 21 years of age, the lack of maturity at that age and inadequately developed brain and judgment formation. They also recognized his accomplishments in earning many certificates in drug and alcohol counseling, student mentoring and youth counseling, vocational skills training, earning his associates degree in social studies while incarcerated, support from church and family, and offers of job and transitional living if paroled. The board also noted he has been violation free in prison since 2012. The board’s recommendation will go to the governor’s office for final approval or denial.
Harrell is survived by his daughter Patricia who was not been able to be contacted regarding this hearing.