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Man Gets Parole in $4 Poker Murder

Matthew Gooch has been in prison for 36 years. If the California parole board has its way, he will soon be out of prison. Last week, the parole board granted Gooch parole after he was convicted in the 1980 murder of Franklin Woods Jr. Gooch shot Woods in the neck with a borrowed shotgun after he lost $4 playing poker. Modesto police say he confessed to the crime and later changed his story to self defense. But the jury didn’t buy it and he was convicted and given 17 years to life in prison.

Gooch is now 82 years old, but the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office isn’t happy with the decision. Gooch reportedly was denied parole in 2014 when he said he would kill anybody who stole from him again. In his trial he stated that Woods had stole from him. Prosecutors said in his parole hearing that he was still a threat. They brought up a psychologist’s report that claimed he was a moderate risk if outside a structured prison environment.

Several members of Woods’ family also testified at the parole hearing. saying how the murder had changed their lives. Woods’ daughter and grandson were two of those to testify.

Despite the approval by the parole board Gooch isn’t a free man yet. The motion to grant him parole now goes to the governor, who can uphold the decision or overrule it. There is no definitive date set for his release. That will be decided at a later date and come after the Governor’s Office weighs in.

Gooch’s murder conviction isn’t the only poker-related homicide in California. The most notorious case is the conviction of poker pro Ernest Scherer III. He was found guilty of murdering his parents in order to collect a $1 million inheritance. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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