Notorious South Bay Murder-For-Hire Convict Found Fit For Parole

A convicted murderer who plotted the slaying of her ex-husband nearly 40 years ago in Santa Clara was found suitable for parole Tuesday.

Judith Barnett, 71, was imprisoned on a life-without-parole sentence on Nov. 8, 1994, for the 1980 murder of her husband Howard Witkin. That sentence, being served at Chowchilla, was amended to 27 years to life when Gov. Jerry Brown commuted her sentence in November, according to California corrections officials.

On Tuesday, Barnett was found fit for parole by the Board of Parole Hearings.

Barnett's adopted daughter, Marie Witkin, said she’s opposed to her adopted mother’s release from prison. A Georgia resident, Marie wasn't aware of the parole proceedings taking place for Barnett in California.

Marie said Barnett had her adopted father killed and should not be set free.

"I've told everybody. School, teachers, everybody that I know my mother did it," Marie said.

When they divorced, Marie Witkin says her mother hated her father. Barnett would remarry and move with the kids to Michigan. Marie says her mom wanted full custody and life insurance money. But that's not all.

"My mother and stepfather Robert Singer had a conversation late one night about having my father killed and had been arguing about it," Marie said.

Days later, on March 22, 1980, Howard Witkin was shot and killed on the front porch of his Santa Clara home. Four men were convicted in a murder-for-hire scheme, including Barnett's new husband Robert Singer.

Years later, investigators revealed in court that Barnett was having an affair with Singer's defense attorney during the trial. Singer's conviction would be reviewed, and he made a plea deal with prosecutors and testify against her, showing she was behind the plot to kill Witkin.

In 1994, Barnett was convicted and sentenced to life without parole.

But more than a decade later, it was revealed Barnett was behind it all.

"I think that she should stay in prison." Marie Witkin said. "I think she should stay in prison until she dies.

"I hope that Judi goes on and lives her life," Marie continued, "and I hope she stays clear from the family because none of us want anything to do with her."

The parole board's legal staff will now review the decision, a process that could take up to 120 days, corrections officials said. If the parole grant is finalized after the review, it then goes to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has up to 30 days to review it.

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