Despite opposition from his victim and the people who prosecuted him, the California State Board of Parole will free a serial child rapist with 140 years remaining on his sentence under a programme that permits the early release of older convicts.
Before his niece was left in his care in 1990, Cody Woodsen Klemp, now 67, was convicted of rape and attempted rape in the past, according to FOX 11 reporting.
After repeatedly raping the then-14-year-old, he was found guilty of 40 felonies four years later. These included ten acts of rape, twenty counts of perpetrating a lewd and lascivious act on a minor, and ten instances of forcing oral copulation on a juvenile.
According to The Press-Enterprise, the youngster was able to escape and tell her therapist about the assault, but the jury was shown proof that Klemp had threatened to kill his victims multiple times if they reported the abuse.
The state parole board declared on November 8, only 29 years into Klemp’s 170-year prison sentence, that he will be released either on March 15, 2024 or before.
The group defended their choice by citing his “low risk for violence,” old age, and “marketable skills.” The commissioners were 21 and had been selected by the governor with approval from the state legislature.
The Elderly Parole Programme, which was implemented in 2018, permits parole reviews for prisoners over 60 who have completed 25 years of their sentence. According to The Press-Enterprise, changes made to the programme in 2021 made prisoners over 50 eligible for parole hearings if they had completed 20 years or more of their sentences consecutively.
Mike Hestrin, the district attorney for Riverside County, whose office brought Klemp’s case, expressed disbelief at the board’s ruling:
“This is a devastating blow to victims, and our office will continue to fight on their behalf,” Hestrin wrote in a statement Friday. “Although this practice of early release is far from unusual these days, considering the inmate’s particularly violent criminal history, and admissions to the parole board itself, it is shocking that such a release would be considered.”
His victim provided testimony on the long-lasting psychological impact of her uncle’s abuse prior to the announcement of his release during the parole hearing on November 8.
“It was because of him that I learned to cut. It was because of him that I hate me,” Klemp’s victim, now 48, told the board. “It was because of him that the only prayer I had was a prayer not to wake up. I always believed that somehow I did something to deserve it.”
“Unlike Cody, for me, for his victims, there is no parole board,” she continued. “We don’t get to ask or request release from our mental prisons.”
According to The Orange County Register, Klemp’s victim was born to a developmentally handicapped woman who gave birth to at least twelve children, all of whom were put into foster families or homes.
She informed the magazine that the assault began with a game of tickle. The game progressed to frequent rape and psychological mistreatment. The woman claimed that after she made threats to end her life, Klemp handed her a gun and challenged her to carry out her threat.
“The only reason the abuse stopped was because I had the guts to run away,” she told the outlet. “I had no money, I had nowhere to go, and yet anything that I faced in the streets would have been better than what I was facing at home.”
His niece sued child welfare services in Riverside and Los Angeles after Klemp was found guilty, claiming that the agency had not done enough background checks before placing the niece with her uncle. According to The Press-Enterprise, Klemp’s victim lost on a technicality.
Mandatory home visits and background checks were required for child placements through the Los Angeles County Department of Children’s Services, an administrator informed The Press-Enterprise a year after her placement.
In an interview with South California News Group, the victim said she was “terrified [Klemp is] going to kill [her].”
“He’s a lifetime criminal,” she told the agency. “He’ll do it. He’s dangerous. I have been a mess. I’ve had nightmares all night long. It’s just this impending doom. It’s like being raped over and over again.”
His victim stated that she was more concerned for the safety of other possible victims than for her own:
“I am very scared – but I can only die once,” she said. “The victims that he goes on to perpetrate against will die many, many more times.”
She made the decision to share her tale publicly in the hopes that the board would change its mind. She stated that she “want[s] this in every newspaper.”
The Riverside District Attorney’s Office stated in a press release on Friday that Gov. Gavin Newsom can be reached at 1021 O Street, Suite 9000, Sacramento, CA 95814 or by calling (916) 445-2841 if someone is against Klemp’s release or the program’s limited eligibility requirements.