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Convicted murderer Sarah Dutra released from prison

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Posted: Friday, August 26, 2011 4:09 pm | Updated: 12:35 pm, Mon Jul 29, 2013.

The woman accused of poisoning her Woodbridge boss a decade ago was released early Friday morning from the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla.

Sarah Dutra, who served nearly her entire sentence, was convicted of poisoning attorney Larry McNabney on Sept. 11, 2001. She and her alleged accomplice drove his body north and stashed it in a garage refrigerator in his Woodbridge home before ultimately burying it in a shallow grave.

His body was found in February 2002 in a vineyard near Linden.

Dutra was a 21-year-old art student at California State University, Sacramento, when she befriended Lauren Sims, the then-wife of McNabney, the boss at the firm where Dutra worked as a legal secretary. The women hatched a plot to poison McNabney with a horse tranquilizer and steal money from his law practice, according to prosecutors.

Sims, who had a long history of criminal activity and aliases, was also arrested but ultimately hung herself in jail. She left a three-page confession letter that implicated Dutra and left her to stand trial alone.

She has served most of the 11-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter and was released at 4:45 a.m. Friday morning, according to the state department of corrections and rehabilitation.

Dutra, now 31, was granted a parole transfer so she could serve her three years of parole in Solano County, where her parents live. She was raised in Vacaville.

"A parole tranfer was approved from Sacramento County to Solano County in order that she be able to maintain strong family ties to aid in her successful reintegration," said Luis Patino, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Dutra was initially charged with capital murder, but a jury ultimately convicted her of voluntary manslaughter and being an accessory to murder. The judge sentenced her to the maximum 11-year term in the Chowchilla prison, where she has been since April 2003.

McNabney's adult son and daughter said they're still coming to terms with Dutra's release.

"We, as his children, are working on forgiveness for our health and well-being," Tavia Williams told The Record earlier this month, when she was informed of Dutra's release by state officials.

At a resentencing hearing in 2007, a judge said Dutra showed "unparalleled callousness" in helping to carry out the crime.

At the time, Judge F. Clark Sueyres said Dutra helped drug McNabney, put the dying man into a wheelchair and placed him in the backseat of his truck at a Southern California horse show. Dutra and Sims took a scenic route home, stopping in Yosemite National Park to bury McNabney, but changed their minds because the ground was too hard and he was still alive.

He died in his home and was stashed in the refrigerator.

For months, the women cashed settlement checks intended for personal injury victims and made up excuses for McNabney's absence at the law firm and horse shows that they continued to frequent.

At the hearing, Deputy Public Defender Keith Arthur said Dutra went along with Sims' actions because she was also a victim and was manipulated by the 36-year-old woman. Until then, Dutra had no criminal record.

The case was one of the first in California to be sent back by the Third District Court of Appeal after a Supreme Court decision found problems with the state's sentencing rules, according to News-Sentinel archives.

Appellate justices said trial judge Bernard J. Garber overstepped his bounds by giving Dutra the maximum sentence, rather than the standard term of six years. Attorneys began preparing for a convoluted sentencing trial, but then the state Legislature changed the law that gave judges more discretion in sentencing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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  • sherylynne klein posted at 12:56 pm on Mon, Aug 27, 2012.

    sherylynne Posts: 1

    Why does she need to be "reintegrated" into society? She is a cold-blooded killer who got too short of a prison sentence. Who will be the next one to die as a result of her evilness? McNabney's children should have shown up at her parole hearing and made sure she stayed in prison for, at least, another eleven years.

  • trista aquino posted at 10:49 pm on Wed, May 23, 2012.

    trista aquino Posts: 98

    Hey I just calls it as I sees it. Sorry if my saying it outloud offended you but I tried to put it as politely as possible. Mr. Kinderman.

    You should stop arguing everytime you talk and give yourself some time to think first because your programming is Really backwards on this. WE should be calling THIS outrageous! A person who killed someone to get money then stuffed them in a fridge then took him back out and buried him is outrageous! And given only 10 years! Sentence completed, thats that, as if justice was served- outrageous! Don't you think?

  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 7:14 pm on Sun, May 20, 2012.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2254

    "And I know you guys are all going to kill me for this one, but I gotta say it- its just so obvious and in your face but I'm thinking she might not have been so lucky, if it weren't for her...um....complexion."

    That is a blatant racist comment and should not be condoned by anyone. Just imagine if anyone wrote such a thing about someone whose "um....complexion" were different than this particular woman's. There would be far more than the scant 12 comments offered here so far since 10:19 p.m. on Saturday night, and rightfully so. Outrageous!

  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 7:02 pm on Sun, May 20, 2012.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2254

    Democrat, Republican or whatever - any defense attorney would (and should) defend their clients to the best of their ability within the confines of the law; this includes not only doing whatever it takes to "get them off," but also securing the best outcome of a sentence when it comes to that.

    All of this angst about the equity or lack of equality when it comes to sentencing can't blame the defendants of even the defense counsels - these laws are created in Sacramento or in some cases at the federal level. We continue to vote in these legislators and other public officials who appoint ultra-liberal judges (such as on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals) who often times try to change the laws themselves from the bench.

    Again, it comes down to the legislatures.

  • trista aquino posted at 10:19 pm on Sat, May 19, 2012.

    trista aquino Posts: 98

    What the ggsgbbvcfhjnmkkihrfvbjderweml???? Holy cow I cant believe my eyes! I can murder someone to get money, stuffed them in a fridge and bury them w/ my own 2 hands and ill be able to spend said riches by my 41st birthday?!

    I remember some kid who got a ride home one night from a guy who, unbeknownst to him, was on his way to finish off an argument from earlier that day-w/ a gun... Shootee dies, 4 are convicted, including the guy who never made it to his destination, who got the least amount of time-38 years.

    ......I guess.they should have robbed him after, stufffed and buried, so they too could serve out their sentence w/ a smile. And I know you guys are all going to kill me for this one, but I gotta say it- its just so obvious and in your face but I'm thinking she might not have been so lucky, if it weren't for her...um....complexion.

  • Suzy Morgan posted at 4:36 pm on Sat, Aug 27, 2011.

    Suzy Morgan Posts: 14

    Hey Jennifer,

    Curtains are hung and people are hanged. "Sims...ultimately HANGED herself in jail." Sometimes I just don't know what is happening at the LNS.


  • Raymond Cook posted at 10:13 am on Sat, Aug 27, 2011.

    Raymond Cook Posts: 125

    "At the hearing, Deputy Public Defender Keith Arthur said Dutra went along with Sims' actions because she was also a victim and was manipulated by the 36-year-old woman. "

    I hate Democrat Public defenders in California.

  • Raymond Cook posted at 10:10 am on Sat, Aug 27, 2011.

    Raymond Cook Posts: 125

    Look at the SMIRK on her face!

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 9:27 am on Sat, Aug 27, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    I think what many people question is the equity of sentences. For example, Richard Evens is serving a minimum 21 years for a crime where no body died and this woman helped murder someone and is out in 11 years... so yes she served the time but some would say ... "what the Hey"... why so little time .

    Another thing I noticed with people imprisoned in USA... the people look so healthy and fit when they get out... all at tax payers expense. What happened to making prison a place to fear... a place that no one would want to return to at all costs.

  • daniel hutchins posted at 9:50 pm on Fri, Aug 26, 2011.

    daniel hutchins Posts: 1335

    actually, she's probably on parole, and that means that she still has to present herself to the P.O., so she's technically not completely finished.

  • daniel hutchins posted at 9:49 pm on Fri, Aug 26, 2011.

    daniel hutchins Posts: 1335

    mizzo roberts: thank you for respecting the fact that she served her time in prison, and now she's done.

    Society likes to add more time.

  • Account Deleted posted at 8:04 pm on Fri, Aug 26, 2011.

    Jesse Hallum Posts: 57

    Sociopaths like this can not be rehabilitated. She will kill again, sooner than later.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 7:52 pm on Fri, Aug 26, 2011.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4305

    I don't condone anything that Ms. Dutra did in this case. She apparently had the free will to go along with the demented wife or not. Seems she was an accessory to this murder and not the mastermind, like the wife who committed suicide in jail.

    Mr. Scott wrote: "We can thank all of your bleeding heart liberal Dem's for cr@p like this.

    Ignorants like Mr. Scott have no one else to blame but the nebulous "bleeding heart liberal."

    I consider myself liberal leaning, but you should ask my husband what I think should happen to murderers, rapists, child molesters, gang members and any other number of horrific commiters of crime. Even he is horrified by my Medieval ideas.

  • mizzo roberts posted at 5:50 pm on Fri, Aug 26, 2011.

    mizzo roberts Posts: 59

    The legal process has run its course. Now it is up to her to live a decent , productive life. Let's hope for the best....

  • Robert Chapman posted at 4:48 pm on Fri, Aug 26, 2011.

    Bob Chapman Posts: 997

    JACKSON SCOTT, I am sure she had a "rough" childhood and shoes that didn't fit and jeans that had holes in them, so she deserves to serve less time that someone who sold drugs. Not that I am condoning drug dealers, but I think the inequality in prison time is obvious.

  • Jackson Scott posted at 4:26 pm on Fri, Aug 26, 2011.

    Jackson Scott Posts: 382

    Wrong. Plain wrong. We can thank all of your bleeding heart liberal Dem's for cr@p like this.

    Two words: Capital Punishment



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