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AUBURN — Brandon Fernandez is a murderer. But that doesn’t mean he’ll live his life in prison.

“He was about 6 feet away from us. And he was told not to make eye contact with us or address us,” said Christine Vanderschoot.

Vanderschoot’s 17-year-old sister, Justine, was killed by Fernandez in 2003. She’s describing Friday’s parole hearing, where the board spent some six hours contemplating whether Fernandez should be released.

“Angry. Anxiety. Sadness. Wanting to know why, and knowing we may never really have all the answers,” she said.

Justine’s family was hard at work in the days before the parole hearing — writing letters, circulating petitions, holding a candlelight vigil at the spot off Interstate 80 in Applegate where Justine was buried, still alive, by Fernandez and her then-boyfriend Danny Bezemer.

In the end, Brandon Fernanadez was denied his parole.

“Its like, ‘yes!’ He’s in. But then it’s like ‘we could be back in 18 months.’ It’s the roller coaster of emotions,” she said.

Fernandez has the opportunity to appeal the parole board’s ruling. If he loses that appeal, he’ll have the opportunity to try again in five years.

The Vanderschoots say they’ll be there.