SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — A South Lake Tahoe man who murdered a teenage acquaintance and was sentenced to life in prison 14 years ago has been found initially suitable for parole, but cannot be released until June 2015 at the earliest, according to California parole officials and records of their deliberations.
Charles ‘Chad’ Newport, 33, was 19 when he killed Melissa Hanson, also 19, in her bedroom in her parents’ South Lake Tahoe home on June 10, 2000.
At a Board of Parole hearing at the California Men’s Colony in May, Newport recounted his growing problems with drug use, negative emotions, social anxiety and violence before the crime, describing himself as a “wreck spiraling out of control.”
Newport murdered Hanson after a night of heavy drinking and cocaine use with other friends. Hanson had invited Newport to stay the night at her parents’ home and sparked his outrage by turning down his sexual advances.
“I started cussing her out and she slapped me. She had every right to do it. I was way out of line,” Newport told the Board of Parole. “I just lost it. The dam broke. All this anger and rage, it just came out of me. I just saw her as another failure in my life and I became so angry.”
Newport suffocated Hanson to death with a pillow. “I should have tried to resuscitate her,” he said. “I should have picked up the phone and called 911. I should have called anybody, somebody, and I didn’t.”
Instead, Newport said he cried on the floor and panicked. When Hanson’s mother came to the bedroom, Newport blocked the door until she went to a phone to call police. He then “put (Melissa) in the closet like she was nothing” and snuck out a window.
Newport was arrested two days after the killing and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in El Dorado County Superior Court. Authorities dropped several felony charges of unlawful sex with a minor, cases involving other South Lake Tahoe teenagers.
Newport had prior juvenile arrests for battery and at the time of the murder was on probation for felony assault with a deadly weapon. A psychiatrist who evaluated him for the Board of Parole found he would pose a low-to-moderate risk for violence if released.
At the initial suitability for parole hearing, Newport said there was no reason or excuse for him to kill Hanson. Newport said he is prepared to spend the rest of his life in prison and deserved the sentence for his crime. But he added that he has dedicated his life to “correcting and bettering” himself with Alcoholics Anonymous and counseling, getting a vocational certificate in office skills and volunteering with a hospice program for prisoners.
“Everything I’ve done is for her. The behaviors I’ve changed, getting help, it’s for her family. I stole their daughter. I murdered her brother’s sister. I decimated their family and I get that. I can’t imagine what they went through and what they’re still going through,” Newport told the Board of Parole. “I murdered an innocent human being because I couldn’t cope with life. And for that, I’m so sorry. The only way I can make any, any kind of amends is by changing myself so that it never happens again, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Board of Parole members said Newport has shown remorse and accepted full responsibility for the senseless killing of an innocent young woman as well as identified and addressed the issues that fueled his drug use, anger and violence as a teenager.
“You definitely have embarked on a program and (shown) systematically that you’re not the same person that you were when you committed this crime,” Board of Parole Deputy Commissioner Jeff Champlin said.
Champlin and Presiding Commissioner Amarik Singh supported an initial suitability for parole finding. They noted it does not diminish the horrific and unjustified crime Newport committed and also cautioned Newport that the finding is tentative. It is subject to 120 days of review by the Parole Hearings Decision Review Unit. After that, the California governor can uphold or overturn the finding or request a full review by the 12-member Board of Parole.
Newport also must go through a progress review hearing before his minimum eligible parole release date of June 12, 2015, which is the soonest he could be released from prison, Singh said.
If released, Newport plans to spend at least six months at The Francisco Homes, a transitional living facility in Los Angeles. He would then reunite with family in Sacramento and El Dorado counties.
Jodie Jensen, a deputy district attorney for El Dorado County, opposed the initial suitability for parole finding. Jensen argued the support system Newport plans to rely on after being released is the same support system that failed to intervene before he spiraled out of control and killed someone. She also argued Newport has never lived on his own as an adult and lacks skills needed to reintegrate into society.
People can support or oppose Newport’s parole by writing to the Board of Parole Hearings, PO Box 4036, Sacramento, CA 95812-4036. Letters should be marked “Attention Legal Unit.”