SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – An appeal panel has granted parole to a woman who has spent 25 years in prison for murdering her two sons, overturning a decision by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009 to keep her behind bars.
The Sacramento Court of Appeals ruled on July 8 that Darlene Brazil has made enough strides in therapy and in learning new trades that she is no longer a threat to society (.pdf), citing her vocational trading and volunteer work with children as evidence of her improving mental state.
Brazil was sentenced to two concurrent sentences of 15-years-to-life for suffocating her 4-year-old son B.J. with a pillow and then suffocating her 1-year-old son Brian on a pullout couch on May 20, 1986.
Brazil said she unsuccessfully attempted suicide after the killings because she wanted to be “all together in heaven” with her children. A confrontation with her ex-husband, who told her he was sleeping with another woman, tipped her over the edge and made her feel like she had no reason to live, she said.
A two-member parole panel ruled in 2009 that Brazil no longer showed signs of any mental illnesses and was no longer a threat to society, but Schwarzenegger reversed their decision later that year, calling the murders “especially atrocious” and expressing doubt that Brazil had been rehabilitated.
The appeals panel said recent psychiatric evaluations showed no signs of personality disorder and called her behavior in prison exemplary, saying Brazil has “taken advantage of every conceivable self-help program.”
The panel also took issue with Schwarzenegger’s description of the crime as “atrocious,” saying the murders cannot be described as “an especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel method of committing second degree murder,” according to the final ruling.
“Brazil used no weapon to commit the crimes. She did not shoot her children, beat them or torture them. She accomplished the killings in the most straightforward, direct way available,” the ruling stated.
Myrtle Norcom, the woman who discovered the horrifying aftermath of the 1986 murders, said she was stunned to learn that Brazil was granted parole and said she hasn’t served enough time.
“I couldn’t believe she did that to those babies,” Norcom said. “Even now it’s quite vivid in my mind, like it’s etched in there.”
Norcom said she still places Christmas ornaments every year in memory of the two boys.
If the parole board has no objections to the appeal panel’s ruling, Brazil will be released in less than 30 days.