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Newsom: no parole for Anderson in 1979 murders
• Anderson will stay locked up
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

Governor Gavin Newsom has reversed the decision of the Board of Parole Hearings to release former Modesto resident Ronald Ray Anderson, 61.

Anderson has been incarcerated for his role in the brutal 1979 murders of a Modesto couple, Philip and Kathryn Ranzo.

Newsom determined that Anderson would pose an unreasonable danger to the public if released from prison. He was specifically concerned by Anderson’s efforts to minimize his role in the crime, his shifting narrative and reporting inconsistent facts of the crime. Governor Newsom found that Anderson must develop deeper insight, coping skills and understanding of his triggers before he can be released.

 “Our office, community leaders, members of the Ranzo family, a surviving victim and many members of our community wrote letters and sent emails asking the governor to reverse the parole decision,” said Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager is a press release. “Our voices were heard.”

Anderson was found suitable for parole during a Dec. 28 hearing of the State Board of Parole Hearings at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad. Stanislaus County Deputy District Attorney Amy Elliott Neumann argued against Anderson’s release.

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.

Kathryn Elaine Moore Ranzo, a 1967 graduate of Turlock High School, was the daughter of Turlock Police Officer Joseph Moore. 

On June 25, 1979, Anderson and Marty Jackson (aka Marty Spears), Jeffrey Maria and Darren Lee, planned a home invasion robbery of the Ranzo home because they believed large amounts of cash were inside.  Anderson drove by the residence as many as five times before parking and letting the others out to execute their scheme. The plan was for the trio to claim to be out of gas and ask to use the Ranzos’ telephone. Anderson acted as a “lookout” while the other three left the car armed with weapons to rope to overpower and tie up the victims.

Approximately 20 minutes later, Maria and Lee returned to the car in a hurry with envelopes full of cash and jewelry. Anderson admitted at a prior parole hearing that he believed that Maria and Lee saw Mr. Ranzo get murdered. Without seeking aid for the Ranzos, Anderson drove Maria and Lee to safety and then returned to the Ranzo home to get Jackson. Despite inconsistencies in his story, some trial testimony indicating he saw what happened inside the Ranzo home, and an unexplained gap in time of over 60 minutes, Anderson has stated that he never went into the home.

The day after the murders, the hogtied bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Ranzo were found in their home. Phillip Ranzo’s body was lying on the floor of the garage, beaten over the head with a blunt instrument at least six times and a fatal stab wound to the neck. Kathryn Ranzo was found in the bathroom of the house. She had been struck multiple times in the head with an axe. There were signs she had been tortured with multiple cuts to her eyes and face. She had been sexually assaulted and suffered a fatal stab wound to the throat. The house had been ransacked, with cash, jewelry and a gun missing. 

The murders orphaned their 10-year-old child, Mark, who happened to have spent that night at his grandparents’ house.

Twenty-three hours before the Ranzo murders, Anderson and his crime partners robbed and assaulted a caretaker of a home in Newman. Anderson and his crime partners told the caretaker, Leonard Luna, that they had run out of gas. Once inside the house, they hogtied Mr. Luna and beat him in the head with a revolver. The group proceeded to ransack the home, stealing multiple guns and weapons, which Anderson and his crime partners used at the Ranzo home. In previous parole hearings, Anderson had admitted it was his idea to hogtie Mr. Luna, but he denied it at the most recent hearing.

Pre-trial publicity caused the trial to be moved to Alameda County on a change of venue. In 1979, an Alameda County Superior Court jury convicted Anderson of the murders and he was sentenced to serve life in prison.

At the parole hearing on Dec. 28, 2021, Deputy District Attorney Neumann urged the Board not to release Anderson for the safety of the community and given the heinous nature of his crimes. She argued that he needed additional insight into the role he played in the killings, lacked sufficient parole plans, and had lied to the Board about his involvement in the crime.

Surviving members of the victims’ family also attended the hearing and asked the Board to deny Anderson’s parole, telling the Board they feared for their safety if Anderson is released, and explaining the heartache they have endured. The family has attended 29 parole board hearings for Anderson and his crime partners.

After deliberations, the Board determined that Anderson qualified for both “elderly parole” and “youthful offender” considerations, and that he did not pose a risk to public safety. In granting parole, the Board acknowledged that Anderson had lied under oath to them in the hearing but felt that the lie did not rise to the level of justifying a denial of parole.

This was Anderson’s 11th parole hearing. He was previously denied parole in 1993, 1994, 1997, 2001, 2004, 2007, 2011, 2016, and 2019. Anderson was granted parole in December 2017, but that decision was reversed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2018. In 2021, Anderson challenged his murder convictions under newly created Penal Code §1170.95 which modifies the state’s “felony murder” rule. His challenge was denied. The judge who handled that motion determined that Anderson was a major participant in the murders as well as an aider and abettor who shared the same intent to kill as his codefendants.

The deaths orphaned their 10-year-old child, Mark, who happened to have spent that night at his grandparent’s house.

This was the second time a grant of parole for Anderson has been reversed by a governor. Anderson was granted parole in December 2017, but the decision was reversed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2018. In 2021, Anderson’s challenge to his murder convictions under newly-created Penal Code §1170.95 was denied. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson determined that Anderson was a major participant in the murders, as well as an aider and abettor who shared the same intent to kill as his co-defendants. This decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeal.

Anderson’s next parole hearing will be scheduled by the Board of Parole Hearings before September 2023.