Convicted Tulare murderer found suitable for parole

County of Tulare Courthouse in April 2022(Rigo Moran)

California parole commissioners find June Gravlee suitable for parole after serving over three decades in prison for murder; Governor’s office now set to review Gravlee’s parole suitability

TULARE – After over three decades in prison, June Gravlee, 70, has been given a reprieve from California parole commissioners.

At a virtual hearing on July 3, over the objection of prosecutors, California parole commissioners found Gravlee suitable for parole after serving in prison for the 1987 murder of her husband. Gravlee is currently incarcerated at the California Institution for Women in Corona.

In 1990, 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 her senior. 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.

This past March, at Gravlee’s third parole hearing, she admitted for the first time that she did indeed stab her husband despite denying so previously. At her most recent hearing, and to the dismay of TCDA prosecutors, Gravlee denied her personal involvement and asserted her prior admission was simply made to look favorable to parole commissioners. Ultimately, commissioners cited her age and prison programming as factors favoring release.

“June Gravlee is a master manipulator. Either she lied about her involvement in the murder at her last hearing, or she lied to these commissioners,” said District Attorney Tim Ward via announcement. “Either way, it is disgusting that her manipulation has been rewarded. The jury saw through her scheme; it’s unfortunate that parole commissioners did not.”

Former Tulare County District Attorney Phil Cline, who conducted Gravlee’s 1990 trial, reflected on the facts of the case and Gravlee’s direct involvement.

“At Trial, expert testimony, including that of a forensic anthropologist, established that two perpetrators, June Gravlee and her brother, committed the murder using two different weapons,” Cline said. “They both then removed the body from the home and buried it in the Kettleman Hills area. The very next day, June Gravlee picked up the victim’s check at his place of employment and then continued to cash his social security checks for the next year.

The jury heard her testify on her own behalf. And that same jury found she lied and returned a verdict finding her guilty of murder for financial gain. They voted unanimously that she should receive the death penalty. While subsequent decisions of the trial judge and a governor reduced her punishment there was never a doubt then and no doubt now, she fully participated in the brutal murder of Andy Gravlee.”

Gravlee’s parole suitability will now be reviewed by the Governor’s office. For public comment by phone, physical mail, and email, interested parties can visit https://www.gov.ca.gov/contact/.

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