Sonora, California – Tuolumne County District Attorney Cassandra Ann Jenecke announced today that Steve Karpan, age 61, formerly of Modesto, was found suitable for parole on July 27, 2023 at his 7th Subsequent Parole Hearing by the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH). District Attorney Cassandra Jenecke appeared of behalf of the People of Tuolumne County and the victim's daughter Kelly Molohan. Commissioner Schneider and Deputy Commissioner Hickey presided over the hearing and issued a unanimous decision.
Karpan pled guilty to second degree murder in 1994 for the murder of Dorothy Ostrom, a Modesto resident who owned a vacation home in Pine Mountain Lake. A missing person’s report and an anonymous tip led the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office to Ms. Ostrom’s utility room where her horribly beaten body was found head first in a freezer, which had a toilet tank placed on top of the freezer lid. Mr. Karpan was seen driving Ms. Ostrom’s car and attempted to use her credit cards after pawning her video camera. His fingerprints were found on the murder weapon, the toilet tank, and the utility room door. At the time of the offense and until 2015, Karpan claimed he did not remember the killing. However, at his second subsequent hearing, Karpan finally admitted to killing Ostrom and remembering what he had done. At each hearing, he has shared more and more details about what he remembered about the murder.
Karpan has been serving a fifteen-years-to-life sentence and has been denied parole six previous times (2005, 2010, 2016, 2018, 2019, and 2020 ). DA Jenecke argued for Karpan's continued confinement based on his lack of sufficient insight into why he murdered Ostrom and weak parole plans. The panel disagreed and granted Karpan parole basing their decision on the positive influence of Karpan's self-help programming and sobriety work, lack of recent violent rules violations while incarcerated, and a Comprehensive Risk Assessment performed by a trained psychologist that rated him at a low risk of violent reoffending.
Karpan qualified for special consideration under the Elderly Parole Hearing law, codified in Penal Code section 3055. On February 10, 2014, the three-judge panel in the Plata/Coleman v. Newsom class action lawsuits ordered CDCR to “finalize and implement a new parole process whereby inmates who are 60 years of age or older and have served a minimum of twenty-five years of their sentence will be referred to the Board of Parole Hearings to determine suitability for parole.” In response, the state implemented the Elderly Parole Program. In 2018, the California Legislature enacted Assembly Bill (AB) 1448 (2017-2018 Reg. Session), which codified into law the Elderly Parole Program by adding section 3055 to the Penal Code. On January 1, 2021, the California Legislature enacted AB 3234, modifying Penal Code section 3055 to lower the age of qualification for the statutory Elderly Parole Program to individuals 50 years or older and have served 20 years or more of continuous incarceration. At an elderly parole hearing, the hearing panel gives special consideration to the individual’s age, time served, and diminished physical condition, if any, when determining the individual’s suitability for parole. In addition, these same factors are also considered by the Board's forensic clinical psychologists when they prepare risk assessments for elderly parole hearings. Karpan's psychologist and panel gave great weight to the elder parole factors in assessing Karpan's risk of reoffending and in granting Karpan parole. For more information on elder parole, you can visit CDCR's Elder Parole Hearings page.
"While I disagree with the Panel's findings, I appreciate their time and careful attention to this hearing. I am also incredibly honored to have attended five of Karpan's seven parole hearings with Dorothy's daughter Kelly. She attended and spoke or provided comment at all of his hearings even when doing so was incredibly traumatic and forced her to relive her mother's murder. At each hearing, she demonstrated the strength of her love for her mother and her determination that Karpan never again be allowed to hurt another person. Our Office continues to attend parole hearings to support our victims and their survivors while working to ensure offender accountability that promotes public safety." said DA Jenecke.
The Panel’s decision will be under review for 120 days and will be finalized unless the Governor refers the decision for en-banc review by the Board of Parole Hearings.
For more information, please contact District Attorney Cassandra Jenecke at (209) 588-5450.