Sarah Dutra to be released this month

In this April 3, 2002, file photo, Sarah Dutra smiles while talking to her lawyer, Kevin Clymo, before her arraignment in Stockton. Dutra, convicted of poisoning her boss in 2001, then stashing his body, is set to be released from prison on Aug. 26, 2011.

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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