BEND, OR -- Two members of the infamous “Redmond Five” have now been granted parole, and two more could be out by summer. "It’s a devastating decision for the family of Barbara Thomas, who thought that they had closure to this horror story," Deschutes County District Attorney Steve Gunnels tells KBND News, "Every time one of these young murders comes back for a resentencing or a parole hearing, the family has to relive what they went through in 2001." Despite his original life sentence, the Parole Board approved Justin Link's release earlier this month.
"Justin Link was 17 years old at the time," says Gunnels, "There was an 18-year-old, another 17-year-old, and two 16-year-olds who were involved in the murder of Barbara Thomas in 2001, out on the Old Bend-Redmond Highway." One of the killers, Adam Thomas, is the victim's son. "These five wanted to take her car. Instead of just taking her car, they decided to murder her so she wouldn’t be a witness and they wouldn’t get caught."
Because four of the five killers were minors at the time, Gunnels says their life sentences were reduced a few years ago, "Justin Link’s sentence was subsequently reduced to 30 years to life, after a U.S. Supreme Court decision held that a true life sentence - a life sentence without the possibility of parole sentence - was unconstitutional for juvenile offenders." But, he didn't have to wait 30 years for a parole hearing. Before Gov. Kate Brown left office in 2022, she commuted the sentences of a number of juvenile offenders, allowing them to go before the Parole Board after just 15 years. "Justin Link has now served approximately 22 years, so he was eligible to go before the Parole Board," says Gunnels, "The Parole Board held that he was eligible for parole because he had not been getting in trouble in prison. And, the only thing they’re really asked to consider is whether the disciplinary record indicates the person has matured while in prison and has been rehabilitated." Link is expected to be released late next month.
One of the two 16-year-old girls involved in the case is already out on parole. Gunnels says hearings for two others are scheduled for April and May.