Panel grants parole to Sacramento man who killed friend, dumped his body in river

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A man who kidnapped and killed an acquaintance before dumping his body in the Sacramento River could see the light of day after his eighth try before the state parole board.

A two-person panel voted last month to recommend parole to Marke Blakesley, convicted of hogtying his roommate at the Rainbow Inn, killing him with a crowbar, and leaving his body in the Sacramento River in 1981.

Blakesley, 19 at the time, was arrested after a fisherman found the dead, lacerated body of Michael Stephen Rayfield floating near a sand bar. According to court records, an autopsy determined that Rayfield had been strangled with the rope and beaten with a blunt object, causing internal bleeding and skull fractures.

Brocklin Tawyea, an eighteen-year-old who also resided at the Rainbow Inn with Rayfield and Blakesley, testified at trial that her, Blakesley, and Terry Crawford planned to take Rayfield out and “beat his ass” for “being sassy” with Tawyea’s younger sisters and allegedly sexually harassing them. The allegations of sexual abuse were never substantiated.

Blakesley and the two others went to a grocery store with Rayfield, purchased beer, and stopped at a slough on Elliot Ranch Road to drink it. After they finished, Blakesley suddenly grabbed Rayfield by the hair and threw him to the ground, striking and kicking him. He hogtied the man, stuffed him into the trunk of his car, and drove to the Sacramento River.

Blakesley pulled Rayfield, still alive, out of the car and dropped him down a levee, cracking his head open with a crowbar and killing him. He testified in his own defense at trial, claiming Rayfield had pulled a knife at the slough and that Crawford and Tawyea had killed him. Blakesley claimed all he did was knock Rayfield over.

At his parole suitability hearing last month, Blakesley, appearing virtually from Valley State Prison, apologized and told the panel that his dependance on drugs and alcohol in the early ’80s caused him to become a violent person, all while seemingly attempting to minimize his role in the killing.

“That’s not who I am today, it’s not what I live for,” he said. “I think about the victim in this case and how badly he suffered the abuse that he suffered. I think about my part in that crime. My real part, not the book version in the POR, but my real part in that crime.”

Blakesley cited several factors that he said made him worthy of parole, including positive write-ups from guards, counseling for alcoholics, and his record of nonviolence during his 39 years behind bars.

“I believe that I’ve served enough time in prison,” he said. “I believe that you can clearly see by the record that my potential for future violence is very low.”

Deputy District Attorney Jeff Hightower, who works for the Sacramento County DA’s Office’s Homicide Unit, argued against Blakesley and urged the panel to deny him parole.

Hightower called the 60-year-old’s actions “overwhelmingly callous and violent” and said he displayed signs of violence and a danger to the community, according to notes taken by a prison psychologist. He cited Blakesley’s refusal to take responsibility as a major factor that should keep him in prison.

“He specifically disavowed the legal facts of his conduct and said, ‘I did not murder Mr. Rayfield…’ Um, that should be a giant red flag to the panel,” he said. “Mr. Blakesley continues to be combative, and I honestly believe he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it. That he doesn’t understand how he comes across when he interacts with people, even verbally.”

Hightower added, “I am asking that the panel deny parole today, for at least three more years, with instructions to Mr. Blakesley to really get serious about internalizing some of these issues and honestly examining himself, and his life, and his current choices and situations.”

Following a brief recess and 20 minutes of deliberation by commissioners Excel Sharrieff and Gary Shinaver, Sharrieff announced that the panel found Blakesley suitable for parole.

“We arrived at our decision after weighing all of the relevant risk factors,” he said. “We considered the mitigating risk factors as well as the aggravating risk factors, and we found that at this time, the mitigating risk factors, they outweigh the aggravating risk factors.”

The panel’s decision to grant parole to Blakesley is now subject to a 120-day review by the board and a 30-day review by Governor Gavin Newsom, who has the power to reverse the board’s decision and keep Blakesley in prison.

Ethan Biando
Ethan Biando is a freelance journalist from Sacramento. His writing focuses on crime, courts, and policing. Find him on Twitter @ethanb822

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