Q: In 2007, James Calvin Gaines was convicted of the 1972 murder of 12-year-old Shannon Ritter as she baby-sat four children in Rancho Cordova. He was sentenced to life but was eligible for parole as early as August 2013. What is his current status?
Clyde, Citrus Heights
A: James Calvin Gaines was sentenced in 2007 to life in prison with possibility of parole for the 1972 murder of 12-year-old Shannon Ritter at a Rancho Cordova apartment.
Gaines, 68, is at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione. Bill Sessa, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said a parole hearing for Gaines was held in June 2016. He will be eligible for another parole hearing in November 2021.
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Gaines was a 23-year-old airman at Mather Air Force Base in 1972 when Ritter’s body was found in an overflowing bathtub in an apartment on Coloma Road. She had been strangled and drowned while the children she was baby-sitting slept.
Gaines was living in a nearby apartment with his wife and three children at the time. Initially a suspect in the killing, he was briefly held but released for lack of evidence.
In 2006, technological advances in forensic science enabled Sacramento County sheriff’s detectives to present new evidence in the case. DNA on a cigarette butt found near Ritter’s shoes in the apartment led them to Gaines, who in 2006 was a handyman living in Florida. He was arrested on suspicion of strangling and drowning Ritter.
A jury convicted him of first-degree murder. Under the sentencing law in effect at the time of the crime, the judge said, Gaines would be eligible for parole in seven years.