Police: Vallejo Murder Convict Kills Mother, 90

By Lisa Fernandez and Jodi Hernandez
|  Friday, Jan 11, 2013  |  Updated 12:15 PM PDT
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A Vallejo man convicted of murdering two Pinole girls more than 45 years ago has also just been arrested on charges of killing his 90-year-old mother, a sweet lady who loved to sit on her stoop and tend her tomatoes in the garden. NBC Bay Area's Jodi Hernandez reports.

A Vallejo man convicted of murdering two Pinole girls more than 45 years ago has also just been arrested on charges of killing his 90-year-old mother, a sweet lady who loved to sit on her stoop and tend her tomatoes in the garden. NBC Bay Area's Jodi Hernandez reports.

A Vallejo man convicted of murdering two Pinole girls more than 45 years ago has also just been arrested on charges of killing his 90-year-old mother, a sweet lady who loved to sit on her stoop and tend her tomatoes in the garden.

Vallejo police on Thursday said that Dennis Stanworth, 70, called dispatch just before noon Wednesday, and claimed to have killed his own mother - Nellie Turner Stanworth, or "Nellie Belle," to her friends and neighbors.


Stanworth's release from prison after his murder convictions raise questions, but according to the Contra Costa Times, his freedom shows the variable California history regarding sentencing and Death Row.

The state Supreme Court in 1972 ruled the death penalty unconstitutional, and back then, 107 inmates had their sentences commuted. Some, like Stanworth, went free after spending 18 years in prison. After being released in 1990, all Stanworth had to do was register as a sex offender.

But now, he's in custody in connection with a third homicide.

Officers responded to Stanworth's home in the 2500 block of Marshfield Road in the upscale Hiddenbrooke neighborhood, where he directed them to her body.

Philip Bensing  of American Canyon told NBC Bay Area on Thursday that he thought the mother, who used to live with her son in Vallejo, had died six weeks ago. That's because Bensing said Dennis Stanworth told him that his mother passed away sometime during the holidays. Nellie Stanworth had been living in a mobile home park in American Canyon.

Police did not confirm when the mother died.

"I have no idea why anyone would want to do that to her," Bensing said. "Let alone her own son."

He called "Nellie Belle," a sweet woman, who would frequently be sitting on the front stoop of her porch or tending to the tomatoes in her garden.

Detectives later interviewed Stanworth and arrested him this week in connection with the murder.

Stanworth has a long, violent and public criminal history. Most notable are two murder convictions in 1966 for which he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death.

Court records show he was very remorseful for his crimes - even confessed. Despite his objections to an appeal -  his sentence was reduced to life imprisonment and he has been out of prison since the 1990s.

Stanworth was convicted for kidnapping, sexually assaulting and shooting to death two Pinole girls, both 15, in Contra Costa County on Aug. 1, 1965, after he picked them up hitchhiking. Their bodies were discovered two days after the attacks.

Stanworth also admitted the kidnapping and rape of four other young women, three from Contra Costa County.

However, the state Supreme Court in 1969 reversed Stanworth's death sentence on mostly technicalities. Among them: About a dozen prospective jurors were dismissed for cause by the prosecution because they objected to capital punishment.

Stanworth was granted parole in 1979, including three on Death Row, according to court records. He had spent 13 years in prison. He was paroled and required to register with the Vallejo Police Department as a sex offender.
 

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