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Juli Mathis

Juli Mathis’ senior portrait from St. Helena High School’s 1983 yearbook.

Photo Provided

An 80-year-old convicted murderer deemed suitable for parole last year will be staying in prison after all. Gov. Jerry Brown reversed the Parole Board’s decision last week.

Robert Shippmann was sentenced in 1993 to 15 years to life in prison after pleading guilty to murdering his estranged wife, 28-year-old Juli Mathis Shippmann.

Shippmann, who was 55 at the time, drove the woman to an isolated area near Caiocca Pass in Angwin and shot her three times before turning the gun on himself in an unsuccessful suicide attempt that rendered him unconscious.

The week before her murder, Mathis reported to St. Helena Police that she had been kidnapped, raped and beaten by her estranged husband.

He was sentenced to an additional four years in prison for using a firearm.

Since Shippmann became eligible for parole more than 12 years ago, the woman’s family has been fighting to keep him incarcerated. Their letters and statements seemed to make the difference until last September when the Parole Board found Shippmann suitable for parole.

“I can’t believe it. Why would you let somebody go that did what he did?” the victim’s mother, Joanne Mathis Wilson, said at the time.

Deputy Napa County District Attorney Holly Quate argued against Shippmann’s suitability for parole, citing his alleged lack of insight into the crime. Shippmann hasn’t internalized the factors that triggered him, she said.

Since the hearing, Napa County District Attorney Allison Haley has urged Brown to reverse the decision to release Shippmann, saying that he “currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison.”

Brown agreed, according to the DA’s Office.

“We are extremely pleased with the Governor’s decision and remain deeply committed, even in the face of a Board of Parole Hearings grant, to fighting on behalf of victims,” Haley said in a release on Wednesday.

After the Parole Board deems someone suitable for parole, there is a maximum 120-day review by the Board of Parole Hearings. After that, Brown has 30 days to review the decision and either take no action or approve it, modify it, reverse it or refer it back to the Board of Parole Hearings for reconsideration.

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“We had pretty much accepted what we thought was going to be the fate, that he was going to be released,” said Bonnie Sears, Mathis’ aunt and former classmate. “It was such a great message to hear.”

Sears credits Brown’s decision to the fact that the family never stopped writing letters. The result, she said, makes you realize that there are people listening.

“It pays to be diligent,” Sears said.

The whole family is excited about it, she added.

When a decision is reversed by either the governor or the Board, the inmate is entitled to another hearing within 18 months from the hearing at which they were granted parole suitability.


Public Safety Reporter

Maria Sestito is the Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. She covers breaking news as well as crime and courts. Maria came to the Napa Valley Register in 2015 after working at as a reporter and photographer at The Daily News in Jacksonville, NC. S