Family Holds Vigil for Auburn Teen Murdered in 2003, Suspect Up for Parole

AUBURN -- Fourteen years after an Auburn 17-year-old was murdered one of her convicted killers is now up for parole.

Dozens gathered Saturday to remember Justine Vanderschoot and to encourage a parole board not to allow Brandon Fernandez out of prison.

"He's a sick individual," said Justine's mother, Lynnette Vanderschoot. "He hasn't changed and he's not going to change,"

Back in 2005, Fernandez, 35, was one of two men convicted of killing her 17-year-old daughter.

"I feel in my heart that Brandon is the ring leader," Lynnette Vanderschoot said.

At the Clipper Gap Park-n-Ride in Auburn dozens of Justine's friends and family members gathered to collect signatures, petitioning the parole board at Avenal State Prison to deny Fernandez's release.

"They need to be aware, this guy is pretty bright," said Don Vanderschoot. "He'll tell you what you want to hear, he'll do what you want to see. I don't think there's real remorse."

Justine's father says he can't believe 14 years have already passed since he last hugged his youngest daughter. With the pain still fresh, he feels Fernandez needs to serve more time.

"Right is right, and 15 years isn't enough," Don Vanderschoot said.

Two years after her death, Justine's boyfriend, Danny Bezemer, was convicted along with his former roommate, Fernandez, who got 15 years for helping Bezemer bury Justine in a shallow grave when prosecutors say she was still alive.

But Justine's sister, Christine, believes Fernandez did more than just help.

"I think he was the main leader, I think he was the one that planned it all," Christine Vanderschoot said. "They'd been planning it up to nine months up to the date of her murder."

Since both suspects pleaded guilty the family never found out what roles each played in her death.

Fernandez has a parole hearing on September 1. If released he would likely return to the Auburn area, according to the Vanderschoots.

"He's scary," Lynnette Vanderschoot said. "He's a monster, you don't want him to be your next door neighbor."

Justine's parents say even if he's denied parole, in 10 years they'll have to go through it all over again with Bezemer.

"Not only do we have one murderer, we have two," Lynnette Vanderschoot said. "So probably for the rest of our lives we're going to have to keep doing this."

The Vanderschoots are encouraging people to sign their online petition to keep Fernandez behind bars.