The family of an East County man murdered in 1983 by a notorious husband-and-wife serial killer team, wants to make sure the convicted couple stays in prison for the rest of their lives.
Jon Hellyar, who grew up in Lakeside, was shot and killed in Santa Rosa, California, in January 1983. He was 30 years old at the time of his death, one of three victims of a couple that came to be known as the San Francisco Witch Killers because they believed their victims were witches.
Suzan and Michael Bear Carson confessed to the murders after their arrest and were convicted in three separate murder trials. They were eventually sentenced to 75 years to life in prison.
On Wednesday, Michael Carson, 69, will have a parole suitability hearing at Mule Creek State Prison, which is east of Sacramento. he has been incarcerated there since 1984.
“You don’t really understand how that feels until it happens to your family,” said Dianne Winder, Hellyar’s sister, who now lives in Spring Valley. "I was in shock. I couldn’t believe this could happen."
Jon Hellyer picked up the couple as they were hitchhiking, eventually offering them shelter. Days later, though, the three got into an argument.
“She claimed her husband had to kill him because he inappropriately touched her, which I’m sure he didn’t," Winder told NBC 7. "They may have sat together and his leg touched her leg and she used that has an excuse."
Winder said her brother was shot at point-blank range as he begged for help.
“How can there be people like that on this earth that would do something so awful to kill somebody," said Jon's brother, Danny Hellyar, who now lives in Utah. "To me, that’s just beyond my imagination."
Jon Hellyar's siblings hope to be able to voice their opinions at the hearing via Skype, which is being utilized due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“I really don’t think they have a chance in hell to get paroled,” Danny Hellyar said.
“I think he would kill again because that’s all he knows,” Winder said.
This will be the first parole hearing for Michael Carson. In June 2005, he voluntarily waived a suitability hearing for five years.
Suzan Carson, 78, also remains incarcerated. She was denied parole in December 2015 for 15 years. Her next hearing is tentatively scheduled for Decemer 2030, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Carson’s daughter, who lives in Riverside, is also speaking out against her father's release.
“You don’t address mass incarceration by releasing the less than 1 percent of prisoners who are serial killers," Jenn Carson wrote in an email to NBC 7. "My father, Michael Bear Carson, hunted humans -- young, beautiful, innocent victims. He is a predator who will kill again. I oppose my father’s parole."
Editor's note: Carson was denied parole Wednesday May 27. Jenn Carson offered this statement following the decision: "I spoke out about against my father's parole because I believed he would kill again if released. We may never know how many people were killed by my father, Michael Bear Carson or where they are buried but today there was justice for the three known victims, Karen Barnes, Clark Stephens and Jon Hellyar and future violence was prevented."