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DA wants Brown to nix parole of Modesto killer
• Jeffrey Maria helped murder couple in 1979
Maria Press Conference.jpg
Pictured at the Sacramento press conference are (left to right): family friend Colleen Ursini, District Attorney Birgit Fladager, Sandy Ranzo Howell (sister of Philip Ranzo), Mark Ranzo (victim’s son), Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, and family members Michael Naranjo and Maurene Ranzo . - photo by Contributed

Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager and state Senator Cathleen Galgiani held a press conference at the State Capitol Wednesday requesting Gov.  Brown to reverse a grant of parole for convicted double murderer Jeffrey Maria.

Along with then teenagers Marty Spears, Ronald Anderson and Darren Lee, Maria was involved in the brutal killings of good Samaritans Philip and Kathryn Ranzo in June 1979. Philip Ranzo, 30, was a pharmacist and Kathryn,  29, owned her own beauty salon. The teens showed up at the couple’s door pretending to be out of gas and needing to use a phone. Acting as a Good Samaritan, Mr. Ranzo directed them to his garage to retrieve a can of gas. Maria and Spears then forced Mr. Ranzo at gunpoint into the garage and hogtied him. They used his ten-year-old son’s baseball bat to brutally beat him. The killers tortured Mr. Ranzo with a hatchet - slicing his throat and eyelids. He died from his wounds. 

Spears then forced Kathryn Ranzo to an upstairs bedroom where he and others raped her and bludgeoned her to death with an axe and stabbing her. Spears then stabbed Mr. Ranzo in the neck and face to death. Before the four left the murder scene, they ransacked the house and helped themselves to cash and jewelry.

Twenty-three hours before the Ranzo murders, Darren Lee and his three accomplices robbed and assaulted a caretaker of a home in Newman. Lee and his accomplices told the caretaker, Leonard Luna, that they had run out of gas. Once inside the house, they hog-tied Luna, beat him in the head with a revolver, cut his scalp and knocked him unconscious. They then proceeded to ransack the home, stealing multiple guns and weapons, which Darren Lee used while at the Ranzo home.

Philip Ranzo, 30, and wife Kathryn Ranzo, 29, were murdered in 1979 by a group of four suspects which included Jeffrey Maria. - photo by Contributed

Each defendant was convicted of double murder and sentenced to life in prison.

In May, Gov. Brown rejected parole for Anderson, calling the crime “merciless.” The governor wrote in his May decision that “While it is clear from the record that Mr. Anderson tried to dissuade his crime partners from robbing the Ranzos, and that he did not know the two victims were being killed, it is also clear that he voluntarily joined Mr. Spears to commit this robbery despite knowing of the group’s propensity to hogtie and beat their victims.”

Anderson, then 18, testified at his parole hearing this year that he joined his friends at the last minute, a day after he and several others tied up, beat and robbed a different homeowner. He got paid $96 for his role in the crime. Today he is serving time at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi.

On June 6, Jeffrey Maria was granted parole for the third time in as many years. Each of the two previous grants was overturned by Brown. Last year, the governor reversed the Parole Board’s decision, citing how Maria minimized his involvement during his statements at the parole hearing.

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Murder convict Jeffrey Maria

“Let’s keep this killer behind bars where he belongs,” Fladager wrote on the Stanislaus County District Attorney Facebook page.

Relatives of the Ranzos attended the press conference, including their son Mark, who was 10 at the time of the murders, and Philip’s sister, Sandy Ranzo-Howell. The family has attended 26 parole hearings between all four defendants.

Recent changes in the law allow these killers to accelerate their parole hearings so that they occur once every year instead of no sooner than every three years. Each time, surviving Ranzo family members and next of kin suffer the repeated emotional pain of having to travel to various prisons to speak out against their release.

Kathryn Elaine Moore Ranzo was the daughter of Turlock Police Officer Joseph Moore. She graduated from Turlock High School in 1967.

Philip Ranzo was the son of Marie Kathryn Rhodes Ranzo who worked as a nurse’s aide at the Memorial Hospital Ceres and who attended St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Ceres.

Galgiani, Fladager and the Ranzo family are asking Brown to reverse this grant of parole and ask the public to help by writing of opposition against Maria’s release. Anyone writing should make reference to Board of Parole Decision for Jeffrey Maria, CDC#C17317. Letters may be sent to Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr., State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento CA 95814.