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State parole board grants release to ‘Redmond 5’ killer Seth Koch, who fired the shot that killed Barbara Thomas

Five Redmond teens were sentenced to prison for their roles in the March 2001 killing of Barbara Thomas, including Seth Koch, then 15, who fired the shot that killed her
File photos; Oregon Dept. of Corrections
Five Redmond teens were sentenced to prison for their roles in the March 2001 killing of Barbara Thomas, including Seth Koch, then 15, who fired the shot that killed her

(Update: Adding DA Steve Gunnels' reaction to parole)

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) – Oregon’s parole board has granted release from prison to Seth Koch, the second-youngest of the “Redmond 5” convicted killers and the one who at age 15 shot and killed Barbara Thomas with a hunting rifle in March 2001 at her home on the Bend-Redmond Highway after beating her with empty wine bottles.

The Oregon Board of Parole and Post Prison Supervision held a four-hour hearing last week to consider the request by Koch, who turned 38 earlier this month and appeared by video from the Oregon State Correctional Institution with his attorney, mother, sister and a friend.

Also taking part were Thomas’s niece, Deschutes County District Attorney Steve Gunnels and Deputy DA Darryl Nakahira.

“Every day, I think about what I did, and I don’t know how many thousands of times I thought about the things I could have done differently,” Koch told the board, which also reviewed a psychological evaluation from earlier this year. He acknowledged no excuse for what he did but, joined by others, said he had changed over the years.

The board found that as specified in state statute, “upon consideration of the age and immaturity of the AIC (adult in custody) at the time of the offense, and the behavior of the AIC thereafter, the AIC has demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.”

It established a parole release date of June 19 and said it will establish the conditions of supervision closer to the time of the release.

Gunnels told NewsChannel 21 Thursday, "I’m disappointed that he will be released before serving the sentence that the court imposed (30 years imprisonment), but the law has changed and the Parole Board was following the law."

The teens trashed the 52-year-old woman's home while she was at work and contemplated various methods of killing her, such as injecting her with bleach or electrocuting her in the bathtub. After she returned home, they beat her over the head with empty bottle before Koch fired the fatal shot.

The five fled in the woman's car but were stopped and arrested at the Canadian border.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that a life sentence without possible parole for juveniles in aggravated murder cases was unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment, which forbids cruel and unusual punishment.

Nearly a decade later, Gov. Kate Brown in 2021 commuted the sentences of people serving sentences of 15 years or more for crimes committed under the age of 18, meaning they become eligible to seek parole after 15 years. Dozens met that criteria, 20 of them serving sentences for murder, including four of the Redmond teens.

Lucretia Karle, who was 16 at the time, and Ashley Summers, then 15, each were sentenced to 25 years. Karle was released in September of 2021; Summers' parole hearing is next week.

Justin Link, 17, who was outside the home and called the "ringleader" by prosecutors, was granted parole last month.

The victim’s son, Adam Thomas, at 18 the only adult at the time, had his life sentence commuted to life with 25 years before possible parole, which would make him eligible to seek release in about three years.

Article Topic Follows: Crime And Courts

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.


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