Drake University

'I am 25 and still afraid of the dark': Victims' families wrestle with grief as they weigh the death penalty on the ballot

'I am 25 and still afraid of the dark': Victims' families wrestle with grief as they weigh the death penalty on the ballot

On a cool afternoon in October, Sandra Friend sits near a patch of green clover outside her small country home near Yuba City, thinking of her late son as the wind rustles through the trees. Friend, 43, says she wants “California voters to know what kind of offenders are on death row,” men like Robert Boyd Rhoades, who sodomized, tortured and killed 8-year-old Michael Lyons two decades ago.

She recalled that investigators said the wounds her son endured were deliberate: Rhoades stabbed the 63-pound boy 70 to 80 times with a...

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