After bungling a vote earlier this year, the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency has released a convicted child murderer in a decision that bucks a recommendation from a trial judge.
The decision is also drawing sharp criticism from the victim’s family, who is also questioning the legal validity and nature of the Jacob Wideman’s release.
“I was devastated, I never expected to do what they did,” said Sandy Kane, whose son Eric was the victim.
On August 16, 1986, Wideman murdered Kane in his sleep. He stabbed Kane in the chest twice and left him to bleed to death. Both Wideman and Kane were 16 years old, staying in the same Flagstaff motel room while on a summer camp trip.
The murder was unprovoked. There was no motive. Wideman would later say the crime was “the result of the buildup of a lot of emotions,” according to media reports.
On a 3-2 vote, the clemency board approved home arrest for Wideman.
It was Wideman’s seventh parole hearing, which was granted after a previous hearing in February ended in controversy after a botched vote.
Kane said it’s hard to image why the clemency board would be comfortable releasing Wideman, given the random nature of the crime and the trial judge’s recommendation.
“The lack of answer to the question why, compels me to recommend to the parole board that you not be considered for any parole in 25 years or for the rest of your life,” said the trial judge to Wideman at sentencing.
Kane believes Wideman should never have been eligible for home arrest. He said the board and state attorneys misinterpreted “poorly written” statutes.
Kane wrote the following memo outlining why he believes Wideman should not have been let out of prison.
It’s not the only aspect of the release that Kane is questioning.
Wideman told the clemency board that he was approved to be placed at a Tucson halfway house called Old Pueblo, if he was released.
However, days after the vote, the approval apparently fell through. Kane said he was never notified why Wideman’s approval at Old Pueblo was pulled.
Wideman’s attorney, Patricia Garin, sent ABC15 the following statement.
“This is because Old Pueblo’s acceptance criteria has recently changed. Old Pueblo now only accepts prisoners with a risk score of 4 or higher. Mr. Wideman has a risk score of 1.1 and so he is too low risk to live at Old Pueblo,” Garin said.
Instead, Wideman hads been placed at a home in Phoenix. The facility, Reborn Assistance, specializes in substance abuse and is only miles from Wideman’s wife.
In February, ABC15 exposed that Wideman had married two psychologists, who both treated him in the prison system.
His current wife is Dr. Marta DeSoto, who ABC15 discovered had a lucrative contract with the Arizona Department of Child Safety. She’s been paid more than $400,000 in the past two years to evaluate parents.
DeSoto and Wideman’s relationship began in 2007. They were married in 2013.
DeSoto has testified several times to get Wideman released and move him into her home with her two children against the wishes of the biological father, court records show.
After ABC15 notified state officials about DeSoto’s marriage to Wideman, Arizona immediately terminated her contract. A spokesman for Governor Doug Ducey thanked the station, saying the case “defied common sense.”
Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at firstname.lastname@example.org.