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Man Convicted In 1979 Gruesome Double Murder In Modesto Found Suitable For Parole

MODESTO (CBS13) — A Modesto man convicted in a brutal double murder that happened more than four decades ago was found suitable for parole, the Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office announced Thursday.

Ronald Ray Anderson, 60, was convicted in 1979 as an accomplice in the murders of Phillip and Kathryn Ranzo and sentenced to life in prison. Anderson's parole hearing was Wednesday. It was his eleventh parole hearing and the second time he was found suitable for parole; He was granted parole in December 2017 but then-Governor Jerry Brown reversed the decision.

The bodies of the Ranzos were found hogtied in their home on June 26, 1979, according to the district attorney's office. Phillip Ranzo was found in the garage. He had been beaten in the head and stabbed in the neck. Kathryn Ranzo was found in the bathroom. She had been struck in the head multiple times with an ax, had cuts to her eyes and face, had been sexually assaulted and stabbed in the neck.

Anderson, along with three others — Marty Jackson, Jeffrey Maria and Darren Lee — planned a home invasion robbery of the Ranzo home on June 25, 1979, due to the belief there were large amounts of cash inside, prosecutors said. The plan was for Anderson to be the getaway driver while the other three, armed with guns and rope, pretended to be out of gas and knocked on the Ranzo door to ask to use a phone. The other three were found to have spoken of their intent to kill the Ranzos.

Maria and Lee returned to the getaway car with envelopes of cash and jewelry. A gun was also later found to be missing from the home. Prosecutors said Anderson admitted at a previous parole hearing that he believed Maria and Lee saw Phillip Ranzo get murdered. Instead of seeking help, Anderson drove the pair away to safety and later returned to pick up Jackson.

Prosecutors said Anderson maintains he never went inside the home, despite previous testimony indicating he saw what happened inside and gaps of unexplained time in his story.

In Wednesday's hearing, prosecutors urged the board not to grant parole for Anderson, claiming he still posed a threat to the community. They claimed Anderson did not have sufficient parole plans, needed additional insight into the role he played in the Ranzos' murders and he had previously lied about his involvement in the crimes.

Just one day before the murders, Anderson, Lee, Maria and Jackson robbed and assaulted a caretaker, Leonard Luna, of a home in Newman, prosecutors said. Investigators determined the four committed similar crimes as they did to the Ranzos.

Luna was found hogtied and and had been beaten in the head with a revolver. Multiple guns and weapons were stolen from the home and were used during the Ranzos' murders, prosecutors said. Luna survived.

In previous parole hearings, Anderson reportedly admitted to being the one who hogtied Luna, but prosecutors said he denied the act at Wednesday's hearing.

According to the district attorney's office, the board determined Anderson qualified for elderly parole, youthful offender considerations and no longer posed a threat to the public.

Several family members of the victims were at Wednesday's hearing, asking the board to deny parole again. At the time of the murders, the Ranzos' 10-year-old son was spending the night at his grandmothers

Now that the board has granted parole for Anderson, the board's decision review unit has 120 days to review the decision. If approved, Gov. Gavin Newsom has 30 days to reverse, modify or let the decision stand.

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