MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION) The Monterey County District Attorney's Office announced that the Board of Parole Hearings has granted parole for a second time to a man found guilty of killing four family members in 1977, against the wishes of his surviving family members.
The DA's Office said Harold Bicknell has confessed to the murders multiple times and has included testimony against his girlfriend at the time, but now he claims to be innocent.
Bicknell confessed to several people before the trial, according to the DA's Office, but then denied his involvement. Despite that, a jury found him guilty using evidence that included footprint matches, testimony from witnesses and his previous statements. After he was found guilty, Bicknell made a detailed taped confession with his attorney and again claimed to be guilty during his sentencing. Later, he testified against his juvenile girlfriend at the time, Terri M.
In August 1977, Bicknell was 19 years old and his pregnant girlfriend, Terri, was 14. At the time, Bicknell's grandmother, 66-year-old Josephine Smith, lived with her 28-year-old daughter, Suzanne Harris, who is Bicknell's aunt. Smith's 15-year-old granddaughter, Renee Ferguson, and 6-year-old granddaughter, Rachel Harris, also lived at the home.
Renee apparently shared that Bicknell had a sexual relationship with Terri, and Bicknell said during Terri's trial that he cornered Renee in a bedroom and stabbed her in the heart. After that, he said he “grabbed her bra and
tied her hands behind her back because she began to struggle.” He then said he stabbed her in the throat several times while Terri held a gag over her mouth.
Bicknell said Suzanne Harris saw what happened, so he chased her to the kitchen and stabbed her. When Smith entered the room, he said he punched her in the face.
Another cousin of his who was in the home at the time, juvenile Rayleen F., and her friend Karen K. saw what happened, and Bicknell claimed that Karen stabbed Smith and not him.
He said Terri brought Rachel Harris to the kitchen and stabbed her, but she got away so he chased her and stabbed her more than 40 times.
Bicknell was granted parole for the first time in February 2019. The Board of Parole Hearings said he was granted parole because he had a clean record while in prison, because of his age at the time, because of an abusive child and other reasons. Bicknell's surviving family members said they were under the impression that he would likely never be paroled and opposed the decision. Gov. Gavin Newsom reversed the decision, saying he was still a danger to society.
Bicknell was granted parole again on Thursday, despite more opposition from his family. They wrote letters and appeared in the hearing this time. One of his sisters said that Bicknell was the one who was the abuser, and he was not her protector like he claimed. She said Bicknell strangled her before her stepmother took her and the other siblings out of fear for their safety.
At the hearing, the DA's Office said the family told the board that 10 years in prison for each victim was not enough and said that his lies and denials showed that he still presents a danger to society.
Family members and the District Attorney's Office said they plan to appeal the decision to the full board and the Governor.