Ghastly murders revisited

After 21 years on Death Row, convicted killer gets new hearing

Memories of one of the most sensational murder cases in Chico history surfaced this week, when it was reported that convicted killer Steve Crittenden had been granted a new hearing.

Crittenden was a 19-year-old Chico State football player when he was arrested in January 1987 for the murders of a prominent Chico couple, Dr. William Chiapella and his wife, Katherine, whose son Joseph found them stabbed and beaten to death in their home. Crittenden had been employed to do yard work for them.

The murders were horrific, and Crittenden was charged with torturing Mrs. Chiapella on the day he killed her to get her to write him a $3,000 check. His being black only added to the case’s sensationalism.

After 21 years on San Quentin’s death row, Crittenden, now 42, has been granted a new hearing on a single contention: That a juror in his trial was dismissed solely because she was black. Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey told a TV news reporter Tuesday the contention was “absolutely false. [The juror] was dismissed because her expressed opinion was anti-death penalty.