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Parole denied for Ceres killer
parole board

A Ceres man was denied parole for his murder conviction in 1978, in which he shot to death his romantic rival, a Hughson marine.

The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday that Thomas Odell Coke, 59, formerly of Ceres, was found unsuitable for parole during a June 28, hearing of the State Board of Parole Hearings held at Corcoran State Prison. Deputy District Attorney Jeff Mangar represented the People and opposed release on parole.

On the evening of Dec. 20, 1977, Coke, then age 20, used a rifle to shoot and kill 19-year old James Dudley Walton of Hughson. Walton had previously fathered two children with a woman before joining the Marine Corps. During the time he was gone in the military, the mother of his children moved in with Coke. When the victim returned home from service, she left Coke and moved back in again with the victim, leading to the shooting.

In May of 1978, Coke was convicted of first degree murder with use of a firearm and was sentenced to serve seven years-to-life in state prison.

Since being in prison custody, Coke has repeatedly violated prison rules including possessing weapons and assaulting cellmates, most recently in 2016 when he beat up another inmate with force likely to produce great bodily injury. He was convicted of a new felony crime and given another prison sentence to serve consecutively to his life sentence, part of which was spent in administrative segregation away from other inmates. A prison psychologist who recently examined Coke gave the opinion that Coke presents a high risk for violence to the community if released.

Coke became eligible for parole in 1983 and has been denied at least 12 times, the last being in 2014 when he received a five-year denial. Just prior to the start of this hearing in June, Coke stipulated to a three-year denial of parole rather than risk a lengthier denial period. Deputy District Attorney Mangar was given the opportunity to argue for a longer period but the Board accepted the inmate’s stipulation of only three years.