The Prison Chronicles, Episode 1 – The Murder of Heather Dunn –
“The Prison Chronicles” begins with the murder of Heather Dunn on the Benicia High School Campus in September 1986 by Leonard Rubio, who graduated the year prior. In 1988, Leonard was convicted of second-degree murder for Heather’s death, and he received a life sentence. After spending 23 years in San Quentin, Leonard was paroled in 2010 and released.
Heather’s murder stunned the community of Benicia, located about 35 miles northeast of San Francisco. Two families lost children that day - one to prison, and one to the grave. Friends of Leonard and Heather also lost somebody that day. And the community lost its innocence. The damage from Heather’s murder remains over 30 years later.
We use the death of Heather as our touchstone. Prison reform is not accomplished in a vacuum, nor is it simple. Corrections is a multifaceted mix of varying governmental institutions, private corporations, unions, academic researchers, public values, societal challenges — and the victims. We keep our eyes and hearts on Heather and her loved ones through the series because forgiveness is harder than redemption. And some pains defy time.
Executive Producer/Host Pete A. Turner, a senior at BHS at the time, opens the Prison Chronicles by speaking with his close friend Gary Cady. Gary and Heather had Spanish in 5th period; lurking outside that classroom was Leonard. As Gary walked Heather out of class, she said, “Oh no, there’s Leonard.” Less than 5 minutes later she was dead. (Editor’s Note: Leonard Rubio refused to take part in the project)
The main characters of “The Prison Chronicles” are seven formerly incarcerated men -- five of whom had been sentenced to life sentences for murder. Each man released from prison to different circumstances - a successful recording artist, a journalist and author, a business development specialist, an entrepreneur, a change agent for at-risk youths, a veterans’ rights advocate, and a member of the non-profit space.
In Episode 1, we introduce the main characters and reveal aspects of their lives that preceded their incarceration. This initial survey of our subjects suggests, staying out of prison is not as simple as making good choices. Often, underlying factors: physical, sexual and child abuse, abandonment, neighborhoods, even combat environments, lead people down the path to prison
The main characters are:
The Prison Chronicles examines our subjects’ lives detailing their experiences before, during and after prison.
This series will look at life within the prison walls from a rehabilitative standpoint. What programs are in place for prisoners to help themselves? This series will also look at the change process within each prisoner. What does it take for somebody to realize that a change is possible and necessary? This series will study the work of academics who have written about the prison system, including its strengths and deficiencies. Finally, the series looks at what changes should be made to make the prison system more effective for inmates and for society.