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A man who has been in prison since he fatally shot a See’s Candies employee during a robbery in Redwood City more than 35 years ago was granted parole at a hearing last month.
William Rucker, 56, was sentenced to life in state prison with the possibility of parole when he was convicted of first-degree murder in 1977, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. At his 20th hearing before the state Board of Parole Hearings in June, Rucker was found suitable for parole, Wagstaffe said. The decision is currently going through a secondary review before it is sent to the governor, who will have the final say on whether Rucker can go free. The process will likely take four to six months.
Wagstaffe said he is against granting parole to Rucker for the “cold-blooded” killing of a mother of three teenage girls, a crime that shocked the community when it happened on a Saturday afternoon in August 1976. Rucker, armed with a rifle, entered the candy store and confronted 55-year-old Bonnie Baumann, who was wearing a white See’s Candies uniform, Wagstaffe said. He demanded money, which Baumann quickly handed over. It amounted to less than $100. As he was leaving, Rucker turned and shot the woman several times and left her in a “bloody mess” on the floor, Wagstaffe said Rucker was apprehended later that day after a foot chase that ended in San Carlos.
The arresting officer was Stephen Hall, who is now a San Mateo County Superior Court judge. Rucker maintained that he had no memory of the killing due to drug and alcohol abuse, but a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder. The conviction was later overturned when the California Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors had improperly used as evidence statements Rucker made during the booking process in the hours after his arrest. The case was retried, and Rucker was again found guilty of first-degree murder in 1980. Wagstaffe said that if the case were tried today, Rucker would be a strong candidate for the death penalty.
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