Governor denies commutation for convicted killerPublished 10:35am Thursday, March 25, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
Berrien County Prosecuting Attorney Arthur J. Cotter announced Wednesday that Gov. Jennifer Granholm has denied the commutation application of Efren Paredes, Jr., who was 15 when he was convicted of first-degree murder in the killing of a St. Joseph grocery store manager.
“I’m very grateful to her for her careful and thoughtful review of that case,” Cotter said Thursday morning.
Efren Paredes was charged with the murder of grocery store manager Rick Tetzlaff, 28, and the robbery of Roger’s Vineland Foodland on March 8, 1989. Tetzlaff, 28, was married and the father of one, and his wife was pregnant with their second child at the time of his death. He was also survived by his parents, a brother and sister.
“That was a cold-blooded, first-degree murder,” Cotter said.
Paredes was 15 years old at the time of the offense.
Until the recent case brought up against 14-year-old Dakotah Eliason, Cotter said he believed Paredes was the youngest individual in the county to be tried as an adult in a major crime.
Cotter was also quick to point out that Eliason has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation – something that didn’t come into play for the Paredes case in which the defense was a flat denial of involvement.
“I will certainly take into account what the psychiatrists say is going on in that young man’s head,” he said of Eliason.
Paredes was tried in the courtroom of Judge Zoe S. Burkholz and convicted by a jury on June 28, 1989 of first-degree premeditated murder and armed robbery.
Paredes was a bagger at Roger’s Foodland, the store where Tetzlaff worked, and after closing, lured the victim to a back room of the store and shot him four times before robbing the store of cash and checks.
“I don’t think it gets much colder than that,” Cotter said, adding he felt based on the facts of the case Paredes “is where he should be.
Paredes was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Paredes has many supporters, including those who don’t favor the life without parole sentencing of juveniles tried as adults.
Paredes appealed his conviction to state and federal courts without success.
On March 3, 2008, Paredes filed a request for commutation with the parole board.
Commutation is a constitutional power that rests solely in the discretion of the governor after a public hearing with the parole board.
A public hearing took place on Dec. 4, 2008, at which many people testified both for and against the commutation request. Relatives and friends of Tetzlaff as well as members of the law enforcement community testified concerning their strong opposition to the granting of Paredes’ commutation request.
Paredes maintained he was innocent of charges at the hearing while members of human rights groups argued he should be eligible for commutation due to his age at the time of his conviction.
On March 8, Granholm formally denied the request.