Two prison inmates convicted of murder in separate San Mateo County cases — one for his wife’s death and the other for hire — were found suitable for parole this week at Solano State Prison but whether they will actually be released now falls into the governor’s hands.
The parole board has twice before decided one of the men, Hector Diaz, should be paroled but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger rejected the recommendation. The other, William Tabb, was previously denied parole several times.
The disconnect between the parole board’s recommendations and the governor’s final approval is not new and in fact has been the subject of court cases. The question now is what he will do with Diaz and Tabb.
Diaz, 49, has spent 25 years in prison for the first-degree murder of David Roberts, a potential witness in a $3 million computer chip theft trial who he was hired to kill in 1981. Larry Lowery, charged with grand theft for trafficking in stolen computer parts, hired an employee named Jeffrey Biggs and Diaz to kill Roberts. Biggs reportedly refused to participate in the actual stabbing but did help lure Roberts to his death. He and Diaz later returned to the scene to better conceal the body.
At his trial, Diaz was represented by defense attorney Terence Hallinan who would later become the district attorney of San Francisco. In April 1985, Diaz pleaded no contest to first-degree murder and sentenced the following month to 25 years to life in prison.
In return for the plea, prosecutors also dropped a special allegation of murder for hire which could have sent Diaz to death row or made him ineligible for parole.
The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office has steadfastly opposed Diaz’s release but he was found suitable at the last two hearings.
The office also opposed both this time although the parole board’s decisions were "not unreasonable,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
If the governor pushes through the decision this time, Diaz will have served his full sentence and be freed. The same goes for Tabb, 78, who is serving 16 years to life for fatally beating his wife with a hammer in 1980 and dumping her body on the coast. Diaz has always maintained his innocence but has been repeatedly denied parole since the late 1980s.
The body of Diaz’s wife was found wrapped in carpet that matched that from their home. Prosecutors claimed Diaz acted in a fit of jealousy. During trial, Diaz blamed his son for the murder.
Michelle Durand can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.