On March 31, 1993, Mitchell Patterson took his 10 year old daughter Adrianna for a lengthy, meandering drive in his pickup that started in Willits, California, continued to the Golden Gate Bridge and ended on Highway 80 in the Sierra Nevada. They ran out of gas on Donner Summit. After declining assistance from the Highway Patrol and other passing motorists, Patterson grabbed his daughter and pushed her in the path of a big rig truck, killing her instantly.
At first Patterson stated that it was an accident. Later he indicated that he believed that bad people were after them and wanted to cause them a slow, cruel death. While Patterson clearly suffered from a history of mental illness, he was not considered legally insane at trial. Following jury trial, Patterson was sentenced to 25 years to life. The case was later retried due to an error in the jury instructions and Patterson was resentenced to 15 years to life.
On December 20, 2011, the Parole Board considered Patterson’s case for eligibility for Parole.
In a two-part hearing located at the California Men’s Colony in central California that commenced this summer, several of Adrianna’s family members travelled long distances to speak in opposition of Patterson’s release. Patterson’s ex-wife, Adrianna’s mother, testified that she considered Patterson to be a dangerous man, and remained in fear of him should he be released.
On Tuesday December 20, 2011, Prosecutor Kathryn Francis argued against Parole suitability citing Patterson’s attempts to minimize the seriousness of his crime, a history of violent abuse towards family members, as well as Patterson’s history of refusing his psychiatric medications. Patterson’s defense attorney argued that the inmate has changed his tone, has accepted responsibility for Adrianna’s death and has stayed conflict-free for the past 5 years.
Following testimony and argument, Commissioner Ferguson denied parole stating that Patterson posed an unreasonable danger to public safety and extended Patterson’s commit for an additional 5 years before he may again be considered.
District Attorney Clifford Newell said, “this case was tragic for Adrianna’s family and our community. Denying parole to Mr. Patterson will not bring Adrianna back, but it may give some temporary solace to her family.”