Tulare murderer denied parole for second time

California parole board denies June Gravlee parole for the second time after killing her husband in 1987

VISALIA – The Tulare County District Attorney’s Office announced last week that parole was denied for one Tulare woman who killed her husband and received his pension checks in 1987.

The DA’s office said that on July 21, the California Institution for Women in Corona, a California parole board issued a three-year denial for June Gravlee, 67, for the 1987 murder of her husband.  

This was Gravlee’s second parole hearing. At the hearing, Gravlee admitted for the first time in 34 years her guilt in the murder. However, commissioners felt that she still had trouble internalizing her culpability and furthering her self-awareness. Prosecutors noted little emotion from Gravlee when she talked about the victim and the manner in which she murdered him.

In her 1990 trial prosecuted by former Tulare County District Attorney Phil Cline, Gravlee was convicted of first-degree murder with the special circumstance of murder for financial gain. In the penalty phase of the trial, the Tulare County jury recommended a death sentence. However, the trial judge at the time modified the verdict to a penalty of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Her sentence was again modified in 2018 when former Governor Jerry Brown commuted her sentence to life, the reduction of which made her eligible for parole.

June Gravlee and her husband Andrew Gravlee were married in October of 1986. At the time of the marriage, Andrew was 35 years older than her. On July 17, 1987, at their home in Tulare, Gravlee and her brother Gary Smith stabbed and beat Andrew, killing him. The pair wrapped his body in a tarp and drove him in his pickup to a ravine in the hills near Kettleman City, where they buried him. For the next few months, Gravlee collected her husband’s pension and social security checks, and even applied for additional benefits. Gravlee explained her husband’s absence by telling people he had left town suddenly.

In late 1987, Andrew’s family became suspicious that they had not heard from him. Tulare Police Department officers began an official investigation in 1988 and questioned Gravlee, who eventually told officers that it was her brother who killed her husband. On June 14, 1989, Andrew’s body was discovered with stab wounds to the back and chest, and severe blunt force trauma to his head determined to be caused by strikes with a ball-peen hammer. Smith pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years-to-life in prison. He was granted parole in 2013 after serving 24 years.

The District Attorney’s Office routinely attends life parole hearings and a supervising deputy district attorney argued against inmate’s release in this case.   

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