Parole denied for man convicted of 1975 Siskiyou County murder
William Broderick, who 45 years ago murdered 23-year-old Dunsmuir resident Russell Middleton, was again denied parole last week.
Middleton’s body was found near Military Pass Road on Highway 97 in September of 1975. He had been shot and killed with a high-powered rifle at close range, said Siskiyou County District Attorney Kirk Andrus.
Broderick, now 67, has been in prison for most of the past 45 years serving a life sentence. He was also convicted of second degree murder in Nevada, and was involved in another murder in New York state.
Broderick was sentenced to 15 years to life in 1975 and his minimum parole date passed approximately 20 years ago, Andrus said. Since he is serving a life sentence, he would have to be found “suitable for release” by the Board of Prison Team.
Commissioners to the BPT are appointed by the Governor of California, Andrus explained. Broderick is eligible both for special consideration because he was a “youthful offender” (under 25 at the time of his crime) and for “elderly release” criteria since he has been in prison for over 25 years and is now over the age of 60.
Andrus said it’s not uncommon for inmates who have been convicted to life sentences to be released in California. He commended the BPT commissioners in this case for their care to “turn over every stone in the suitability analysis.”
“My office takes very seriously our obligation to victims and their families, and will continue to fight for them – even when almost half a century has passed,” Andrus said. “This ongoing saga involves a brutal murder at the end of a murderous rampage still in the memory of many Siskiyou County citizens – particularly Mr. Middleton’s friends and loved ones,” Andrus said. “Russell Middleton has not been forgotten and the price owed for killing him is still not satisfied.”
‘Thanks for the letter ... 45 years later’
Broderick had several parole hearings over the years, including hearings in 2015 and another in 2017. By all accounts, Andrus said, Broderick has been a good inmate for most of the last few decades. However, when he was denied parole in 2017, he relapsed and used an illegal drug, for which he tested positive.
Broderick’s most recent parole hearing was held on Tuesday, Sept. 22. He is currently being held at California State Prison Solano in Vacaville.
Tuesday’s hearing was conducted remotely by Skype and involved two board of prison commissioners, Broderick, his attorney, and Andrus. Also attending in the DA’s office in Yreka were Middleton’s twin sister Cathy Neptune of Mount Shasta, and DA Victim Services Advocate Karen Simas.
During the hearing, the commissioners discussed programs, counseling and discipline noted in Broderick’s prison record, Andrus said.
“During these types of hearings, they also swear the inmate as a witness and ask them questions about their original crime and their rehabilitative efforts,” Andrus explained.
Prior to the hearing, Middleton’s family sent letters opposing the release. Letters were also received from the Broderick’s wife, sisters, and in-laws.
At the hearing, Andrus said he pointed out the “extremely heinous” nature of the crime, which coupled with Broderick’s background “set the bar very high indeed for anyone to show suitability for release.”
“Everyone involved – even the defendant by his own admission – agreed with the decision to deny parole in 2017,” Andrus said.
Andrus told the commissioners that a justified denial was followed by a relapse, “putting us far away today from any ability to find suitability for parole.”
Neptune was given the opportunity for a victim impact statement at the hearing. Andrus said she referenced a letter written by Broderick to the family in 2017 which they had recently received.
“Thanks for the letter ... 45 years later,” Neptune said during the hearing. She emphasized to the commissioners and to Broderick that, though he may have had drug and alcohol issues, he “made decisions” during the course of his young adult life and those decisions had consequences.
Andrus said Neptune referenced part of the letter Broderick had written, saying that he hoped Russell is “in heaven fishing, camping, walking in step with the Spirit and filled with peace, joy, kindness, goodness and everlasting love.” Neptune told Broderick that her brother “had those things in life” and it had all been taken away.
Murder in 1975
Andrus provided an overview of Middleton’s murder, which took place on the evening of September 21, 1975. Middleton, a brakeman for the Southern Pacific Railroad, had been playing pool at Nightcaps Bar in Weed, Andrus said. Witnesses said that he had generated a small gambling debt to a man named Greg, who’d said he was coming from Colorado and headed to Wickiup Reservoir to fish. Middleton had said that he wanted to drive to Klamath Falls, Ore., to pick up his wife. The man, later identified as 22-year-old Broderick, later admitted that he often made money as a pool hustler, Andrus said.
They left the bar together at 8:15 p.m. in their own vehicles, first looking for a place for Middleton to cash an employment check to pay his debt. Both men were later identified as getting gas at the Phillips 66 station on Weed Boulevard. Middleton was not seen alive again, Andrus said.
Witnesses at the bar and gas station noted that Broderick was driving a Jeep CJ-5, said Andrus. Between 11:30 and midnight, Broderick checked into a motel in Klamath Falls using the name “Greg Johansen.”
Early in the morning hours of Sept. 22, Middleton’s body was found on the side of Highway 97 between Military Pass Road and the Deer Mountain Lodge, according to Dunsmuir News archives. He had been shot three times with a high-powered rifle at close range. His pockets had been turned out, his wallet was missing, and items had been stolen from his vehicle, which was found nearby.
Middleton was several weeks shy of his 24th birthday. The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office issued an all-points bulletin to be on the lookout for the jeep, Andrus said.
The day after Middleton’s body was discovered, an Oregon State Game Warden, acting on the APB, observed Broderick while fishing at the Wickiup Reservoir. The trooper checked Broderick for a fishing license and noticed during their conversation that Broderick was trying to work his way toward his Jeep, which was parked nearby. Suspicious, the trooper went to the Jeep and observed a firearm between the front seats, obscured by some other loose objects.
The trooper found a felony arrest warrant for a probation violation on a prior conviction in Multnomah County and placed him under arrest, according to news archives.
Broderick told the trooper that he had recently returned to Oregon from Colorado by way of Las Vegas. A records check revealed that the Jeep had been stolen in Wyoming a few weeks before and that Wyoming had issued an arrest warrant for Broderick for the theft, along with the theft of a .30-.30 Carbine rifle and a .22 pistol that were stolen along with the Jeep. The .22 pistol recovered from the Jeep was the same firearm stolen in Wyoming, Andrus said.
Oregon State Police then searched Broderick’s motel room and recovered a Winchester model 94 carbine .30-.30 which was also stolen in Wyoming. A scientific ballistics analysis later matched this firearm to the bullets used to kill Middleton, said Andrus. A search of the Jeep produced a brown hunting vest and a Remington 12 gauge shotgun, later identified as stolen from Middleton’s vehicle.
On Sept. 25, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which was investigating a string of robberies and a murder in the Las Vegas area. A jeep matching the description of the one driven by Broderick had been seen speeding away from the murder scene after two suspects had run toward it and climbed inside. A witness had followed the jeep in Las Vegas and obtained the license plate number, which matched the Jeep in Broderick’s possession.
Sergeants from the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office went to Bend, Ore. that evening and interviewed witnesses and assisted with the search warrants the next day. They also interviewed Broderick in the Deschutes County Courthouse, Andrus said. He admitted to stealing the Jeep and firearms in Wyoming and later admitted to shooting Middleton, taking his hunting vest, shotgun, wallet and check, and cashing the check in Klamath Falls at a bank
Shortly thereafter detectives from Las Vegas arrived and interviewed Broderick, who admitted involvement in two armed robberies and a homicide in the Las Vegas area a week earlier, Andrus said.
On Sept. 29, 1975 the Siskiyou County District Attorney charged Broderick with first-degree murder. On Nov. 25, 1975 the District Attorney dismissed the allegation that the homicide occurred during the commission of a robbery and Broderick pled guilty to first-degree murder in exchange for a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.
Even at 22, a background of crime
Broderick had been convicted of robbery in Oregon at age 20. The next year he was convicted of forgery. At age 22 he left his young wife and daughter and went to Colorado and Wyoming, committing property crimes along the way, Andrus said. On Sept. 11, 1975 he committed the robbery in Wyoming and obtained the Jeep and two firearms, then drove south. Near the border of Utah and Colorado, he picked up a hitchhiker named Lawrence Leroy Alexander, age 15.
According to Alexander, as reported in the Times Herald-Record of Middletown, New York on March 29, 1976, the pair offered a ride to a drifter named Duane Schroer on Sept. 14 1975. They tried to rob Schroer and Broderick told him to hand over his cash and coat. Then, Broderick ordered him to start walking into the desert. Broderick fired at the man, gave the .22 pistol to Alexander, and instructed Alexander to “finish him off,” according to the newspaper. Alexander shot Schroer in the back of the head, the Times Herald-Record reported. Schroer’s body was found after Alexander returned to his home state of New York, confessed to the murder, and gave investigators instructions for finding Schroer’s body – which was then located near an offramp in Iron County, Utah several miles south of Cedar City.
When Alexander was eventually arrested he was wearing Schroer’s jacket, the newspaper reported.
Later the night of Sept. 14, 1975, the pair arrived in Las Vegas and stayed the night in the Apache Motel. When they left the next day, they left behind Schroer’s bedroll. The next morning, on Sept. 15, they robbed an adult bookstore, then the Desert Hills Motel later that day. Twenty minutes after the robbery they went to the Ye Kings Rest Motel on the Las Vegas Strip to case it for a robbery, Andrus recounted. Alexander was holding the pistol when the manager, Walter Bannister, saw him and hurriedly closed the glass entrance door. Alexander fatally shot Bannister – who was confined to a wheelchair and told friends shortly before his death that he would not allow himself to be robbed – in the chest through the door. Broderick sped them away in the Jeep, managing to elude witnesses who gave chase.
Broderick and Alexander split up near Taft, in Kern County, on Sept. 19, 1975. Broderick made his way to San Francisco and then north to Weed where he met Middleton while shooting pool at the Nightcap Bar a few days later, Andrus said.