By Chris Levister –
Ten years-ago convicted murderers Rose Ann Parker-Sterling and Sara Jessimy Kruzan sat in their California prison cells with little hope of freedom. On Sunday January 2, 2011 their fate would change forever.
The two Inland Empire women convicted of killing men who abused them received 11th hour relief from outgoing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger issued a conditional pardon to Parker-Sterling and commuted the life sentence of Kruzan.
On March 27, 1986, Parker, then 27, was arrested for the murder of her abusive estranged boyfriend Arthur Boga. Despite a history of previous abuse and the implications of Battered Women's Syndrome, Parker was convicted of first degree murder in San Bernardino County and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. At a meeting of the Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches Tuesday, Parker-Sterling posed for photographs.
She hugged and thanked clergy and members of the community and recalled the everlasting faith and relentless hope that earned her the name Crazy Rose.
Fellow inmates called her Crazy Rose when she announced, with God's help, she was going home.
"They laughed at me considering my release lay in the hands of Governor Gray Davis who said famously he would never let any prisoner out on his watch."
Parker-Sterling made history Dec. 7, 2000, when she was the first woman to be released from prison by Davis.
"You have to dare to dream. The Bible says we can move mountains, and I believed I could do that," she said.
Though Parker had been imprisoned for a murder she felt was self defense, she never felt beat down by the system. During her time behind bars, she was the choir, praise, worship leader and musical coordinator. She prepared curriculum and facilitated more than 300 workshops and seminars.
She said news of the pardon came early Sunday when a Los Angeles radio station producer called for an interview.
"I was exhausted from the holidays. A house guest from the Netherlands had just departed. I said to the producer, 'what news of a pardon'. The producer said - 'so you don't know'. I froze. I started to tremble. Then the tears started flowing. I was so emotional. I'm still in shock," Parker told the group gathered at the T. Hughes Building in San Bernardino.
After serving 15 years in prison, Parker-Sterling became a minister and started Saving Our Women, Inc. , an organization that helps victims of domestic violence. She has written a book, "Beat Up, Beat Down and Still Standing: The Rose Parker Story." She tours the country, sharing her life story, promoting her book and speaking out against domentic violence.
In 2003 she received an honorary doctorate of divinity and in 2004 she earned a doctoral degree in Christian counseling.
"There's more to my life than the past. It's what we are giving to future generations. The elders shall lead the youth," she said.
The terms of Sunday's pardon require Parker-Sterling to avoid arrest or conviction until at least March 2016.
Supporter San Bernardino City Councilmember Rikke Van Johnson called Schwarzenegger's final action honorable and compassionate.
"This is a great day for justice," he said.
KRUZAN KILLED PIMP GRANTED CLEMENCY
On March 10, 1994, 16 year old Sara Jessimy Kruzan shot and killed her former pimp, 37- yearold George Howard in a Riverside motel room as they prepared to have sex. She was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.
At age 11 Kruzan was a good student with a troubled homelife. Her mother was addicted to drugs and her father was absent. She was eventually placed in foster care at age 15.
A video interview produced by Human Rights Watch documented the emotional, sexual and neglectful abuse that Kruzan endured as a child.
Kruzan has served 16 years of her sentence. During her imprisonment, she took college-level courses and was recognized as "Woman of the Year" in March 2010 for her work with the Young Woman's Group at her prison's honor dorm.
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