You don’t want your son or daughter to meet William Walter Nichols.
But the State of California — in its mad rush to save a few dollars — may put him out on the streets next year.
Nichols is a premeditated murderer. Actually he’s a double premeditated murderer. Actually he would have been a triple and quadruple murderer if it hadn’t been for the brave men and women of law enforcement.
You probably don’t know who Nichols is.
Lucky you. Doris Morgan does.
You might, though, know of a young man who encountered Nichols for less than a minute on a Southern California September day some 31 years ago — Michael McDonald.
McDonald was a happy go lucky kid.
He did what kids growing up in rural Manteca did 40 plus years ago.
He rode his bicycle to New Haven School. McDonald, along with his stepbrother Rusty, would give their mother fits hooking up a makeshift carriage to their Shetland pony and taking off down what was then a much quieter Cottage Avenue.
He sang in the First Baptist Church choir. It was the same church he was baptized in.
In high school, he was a member of the East Union FFA and proudly showed both his beef and swine projects at competitions. McDonald was a four-year honor student at East Union High where he graduated in 1973. He also ran track for the Lancers.
Although he wasn’t too much into sports in high school, after leaving Manteca the Cerritos College graduate got into everything from snow skiing and water skiing to surfing.
At age 27, he was living in Downey where he was buying a Spanish-style house while working with his father in a successful burglary alarm business. The entire world lay ahead of him as the strapping, happy-go-lucky, 6-foot-3, 195 pounder started seriously thinking about getting married and starting a family.
That, however, would never happen.
McDonald was murdered in cold blood at the front door of his home by Nichols who also killed Susan Mendrin, 25, whom McDonald had just met six weeks earlier.
Nichols was Mendrin’s ex-boyfriend. She had gone to McDonald’s house for their third date. Nichols waited around the corner until she reached the front door. He then ran his pickup across the lawn. Startled, Mendrin screamed. McDonald ran out of the house to protect Mendrin. Before he got through the screen door, Nichols shot him three times using a .357 Magnum with one bullet ripping through his heart. Nichols then turned the gun on Mendrin and shot her twice in the head.
Before police caught him Nichols almost killed two other people outside of a convenience store.
Nichols was sentenced to two concurrent 25 years to life sentences.
Morgan and her husband Joe have successfully fought Nichols’ release five times before. The parole board credited letters from the community as well as a petition she was able to present them as countering the fact threat Nichols was a “model prisoner” and therefore was considered worthy of possible early release.
Because he was a model prisoner, he has been able to get conjugal visits, marry and have a child while behind bars.
McDonald will never get released from the sentence Nichols imposed on him despite being a model citizen. He also never got a chance to get married or be a father.
So why should Nichols get his freedom too?
Well, the state says he’s played nice behind bars. They have given him brownie points for taking a few classes. And to reward him, they transferred him to a dorm-style set-up in Vacaville from Ironwood State Prison in the high desert.
That — coupled with the push to get low-level and “well-behaved” felons out on the streets so convicted murders, rapists, drug dealers, and such won’t have to live in crowded conditions — has Morgan fearful the State of California will cut loose a double pre-meditated murderer this time around.
His parole hearing is March 5, 2015.
Ninety days before that on Dec. 3, the parole board will start accepting letters and petitions pro and con on whether Nichols should be released.
The date is even more painful for Morgan. That’s when her son would have turned 59.
Morgan is hoping when she starts her appeal for letters to support her efforts to keep her son’s cold-blooded murderer behind bars that people who went to school with McDonald, neighbors and friends will be willing to take a few minutes and compose letters asking that Nichols not be released.
She also hopes complete strangers who live in Manteca will do the same thing. It’s not as much as for her peace of mind as it is the fact Nichols has proven he has no problem laying in wait to murder as well as killing — and attempting to kill — complete strangers.
Morgan doesn’t want another family to lose as much as her family did.
With the holidays coming up, Morgan is hoping if people have time in the next few weeks they can compose letters, Then when December rolls around she’ll provide information where to send the letters and the Bulletin will print the details.
Ten minutes of your time can make sure a premeditated murderer doesn’t walk free as well as possibly avoid another son or daughter from losing their lives.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.