Parole granted in 1988 Modesto murder case

rahumada@modbee.comJanuary 10, 2013 

— A Modesto man convicted of murder in the 1988 brutal beating and robbery of an elderly transient man has been granted parole after serving 23 years in prison.

George Salter, 53, was convicted of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and robbery and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for the death of 70-year-old Thomas Owen. The victim was robbed of about $100.

Salter was found suitable for parole at Dec. 26 hearing, the Stanislaus County district attorney's office announced this week.

Deputy District Attorney Beth O'Hara Owen appeared at the hearing and argued for continued confinement based on the "heinous, atrocious and cruel and callous manner" nature of the crime. The prosecutor also argued that Salter has minimized his participation in the crime. This was his 10th parole hearing.

On Nov. 8, 1988, Salter was working as a bouncer at a Modesto bar when he and a few customers spotted Owen intoxicated. He had just cashed his Social Security check and was displaying a roll of cash.

Prosecutors said they decided to rob Owen and followed him to his campsite near the Tuolumne River, near Carpenter and Hatch roads. There, Owen was hit on the head with a baseball bat, stabbed multiple times and mutilated after his death.

Salter claimed he intended only to help his friend collect a debt. The prosecutors said Salter hit the defenseless man on the head with the bat, while an accomplice assaulted Owen and robbed him.

Robert Brown and Pamela Anderson, Salter's accomplices, also were convicted for their roles in the robbery. Anderson first drove Owen from the bar to his campsite and later drove Salter and Brown to the site. She remained in the car while the two men robbed Owen.

In a previous hearing, the state parole board ordered Salter's release from prison. But then Gov. Schwarz- enegger reversed the board's decision based on the heinous nature of the crime, the fact the victim was especially vulnerable and that Salter had not accepted complete responsibility for his role in the crime.

The parole board's most recent decision will be final 120 days after the Dec. 26 hearing and then can be reviewed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Until then, Salter remains in custody at Deuel Vocational Institution prison facility in Tracy.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or (209) 578-2394.

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