The California state Board of Parole will release a serial child rapist with 140 years left on his sentence using a program allowing the early release of older inmates, despite objections fromhis victim and those who prosecuted him.
Cody Woodsen Klemp, now 67, had previous convictions for rape and attempted rape before his niece was placed in his care in 1990, per reporting by FOX 11.
Four years later, he was convicted on 40 felonies stemming from his repeated rape of the then-14-year-old, including 20 counts of committing a lewd and lascivious act on a child, 10 counts of rape and 10 counts of forced oral copulation on a child.
Jurors heard evidence that Klemp made numerous threats to kill his victims for reporting the abuse, per The Press Enterprise – but the child managed to escape and disclose the abuse to her therapist.
On November 8, just 29 years into Klemp’s 170-year prison sentence, the state parole board announced his impending release some time before or on March 15, 2024.
The body, made up of 21 commissioners appointed by the Governor and approved by the state senate, justified their decision with his “low risk for violence,” his advanced age and his “marketable skills.”
When it was enacted in 2018, the Elderly Parole Program allowed for a parole review for inmates over 60 who have already served 25 years of their sentence. Revisions in 2021 changed the program, making inmates over 50 eligible for parole hearings if they served 20 or more continuous years of their sentences, per reporting by The Press Enterprise.
Riverside District Attorney Mike Hestrin, whose office prosecuted Klemp, expressed shock at the board’s decision:
“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.”
Before his release was announced at the November 8 parole hearing, his victim testified to the lasting psychological effects of her uncle’s abuse.
“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.”
Klemp’s victim was born to a developmentally disabled mother who bore at least a dozen children, all of whom were adopted to foster homes or families, per reporting by The Orange County Register.
The abuse started with a tickling game, she told the outlet. That game escalated to repeated rape and psychological abuse. When she threatened to kill herself, the victim said, Klemp gave her a gun and dared her to follow through.
“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.”
Following Klemp’s conviction, his niece sued child welfare agencies in Riverside and Los Angeles on the grounds that they did not perform sufficient background checks before placing her with her uncle. Klemp’s victim told The Press Enterprise she lost on a technicality.
A year after her placement, a Los Angeles County Department of Children’s Services administrator told The Press Enterprise, mandatory background checks and home visits were mandated for child placements through the agency.
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.”
More so than her own safety, his victim said, she feared for other potential victims:
“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 decided to go public with her story hoping that the board would reconsider its decision, saying that she “want[s] this in every newspaper.”
The Riverside District Attorney’s Office wrote in their news release Friday that anyone opposed to Klemp’s release or the Elderly Parole Program’s minimum eligibility requirements may contact Gov. Gavin Newsom at 1021 O Street, Suite 9000, Sacramento, CA 95814 or by calling (916) 445-2841.