Crime - Sacto 911

Lassen County man convicted of killing two college students will remain in prison

Joseph P. Shelton
Joseph P. Shelton California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Joseph P. Shelton, convicted in the 1981 double-murder of two college students in Lassen County, will remain in state prison for the foreseeable future.

Mendocino County Judge Jeanine Nadel signed a request Wednesday by the state attorney general’s office to suspend a January ruling allowing Shelton’s release after 35 years in prison.

Shelton, 63, was one of three men convicted of multiple crimes in the gruesome deaths of Kevin Thorpe, 21, and his girlfriend, Laura Craig, 20. After forcing them to drive to his remote property 60 miles north of Susanville, Shelton, Benjamin Wai Silva and Norman Thomas killed and dismembered Thorpe, and sexually assaulted Craig for several days before killing her.

A parole board in 2014 recommended that Shelton, who became a Buddhist monk in prison, be released on grounds that he had been a model prisoner and a positive influence on other inmates. When Gov. Jerry Brown reversed that decision, Shelton appealed in Mendocino Superior Court, where his 1981 jury trial was held.

The court granted his request for release but allowed the attorney general to file an appeal.

Shelton also has a case pending in Lassen Superior Court following a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that his 1981 conviction was flawed by a secret and improper pretrial deal between the Lassen County district attorney and Thomas. No date has been set for that case.

Shelton is being held at High Desert prison near Susanville.

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