Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, May 28, ordered an independent investigation into the case of Kevin Cooper, a death row inmate convicted in the 1983 slaying of three members of a Chino Hills family and a family friend.
Cooper, who has maintained that he is innocent, has applied for clemency, and this investigation is part of the evaluation of that application, the governor’s office said Friday.
Two years ago, against opposition from San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson, Newsom ordered DNA testing on hairs collected from the victim’s hands at the crime scene, blood evidence, fingernail scrapings from the victims and a green button.
The year before, Newsom’s predecessor, Jerry Brown, ordered the testing of a tan T-shirt and orange towel found near the scene and a hatchet handle and sheath.
Cooper’s attorney at the time said he believed that testing would show that Cooper was framed.
DNA testing done in 2001 and 2002 did not exonerate Cooper.
In April 1983, Cooper was convicted of burglary in Los Angeles County and sent to the California Institution for Men in Chino. Less than two months later, he escaped from the prison and hid in a vacant Chino Hills’ rental house located 150 yards from the home of Doug and Peggy Ryen, according to prosecutors. He remained at the house until the evening of June 4, 1983.
The Ryens, 10-year-old daughter Jessica and 11-year-old neighbor Christopher Hughes were killed between June 4 and 5, 1983, prosecutors have said. The Ryens’ 8-year-old son, Joshua, had his throat slashed in the attack but survived.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.
Source: Orange County Register