Tuesday marked the start of a clean slate for the getaway driver of a 2005 pot-robbery-turned murder.
Angelic Rampone’s murder conviction was vacated and her remaining six years’ probation terminated in Yuba County Superior Court on Tuesday.
Rampone was convicted for the September 2005 murders of Christopher Hance and Scott Davis, and was sentenced to 15 years of probation. Her former boyfriend, Michael Huggins, was part of a plan to steal medical marijuana grown in the backyard of an Olivehurst home, according to Appeal-Democrat archives. Hance and Davis were shot to death during a struggle with Huggins.
Rampone’s attorney, Roberto Marquez, filed the motion to vacate the conviction in October based on Senate Bill 1437 – signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in September – which amended the state’s felony murder rule. The felony murder rule holds defendants liable for first-degree murder if a death occurs during the commission of certain felonies, like robbery, even if murder was not the person’s intent. Instead, for an accomplice to be convicted of the offense, the intent to kill – aiding, abetting, counseling, requesting or assisting the actual killer – must be proven.
Rampone drove Huggins and two other men to Olivehurst from Antelope because none had a valid driver’s license. Huggins entered the property around 3 a.m. with a .45-caliber handgun, while Dustin Sparks and Levill Hill waited outside the fence with duct tape and rope. Rampone waited in the car and drove all three home after the plan turned deadly, according to archives.
Rampone was the only one of four other defendants in the case who was convicted of murder – Yuba County jurors found Huggins guilty of voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to about 17 years in prison, while Hill and Sparks reached deals with the District Attorney’s Office and were sentenced to 10 years and 13 years, respectively (Hill pleaded no contest to robbery in concert while Sparks pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter). Another defendant, Amy Butler – allegedly the “mastermind” of the marijuana theft plot – also pleaded to robbery in concert and conspiracy and served a little more than five months in jail, according to archives.
The visiting judge at the time said there was no middle ground and that Rampone had to be sentenced to probation or 52 years to life in prison.
Deputy District Attorney Mike Byrne did not contest the motion to vacate Tuesday, citing Rampone’s good probation record.
“In the spirit of the law, if ever there was a better case for discharging her successfully, I don’t know one,” Byrne told Judge Julia Scrogin.
Rampone, who has been married for nine years, has three children and has worked the same job since 2010, was shocked by the ruling.
“I never thought this would happen,” Rampone said by phone Tuesday. “I thought it would be on my record forever.”
She acknowledged that 15 years’ probation was much better than the alternative, but the fear of any small infraction sending her to prison for life was anxiety-inducing – she didn’t drive for the first year of probation.
While Rampone’s children know bits and pieces of why she has to check in with Yuba County Probation every month, she plans to one day tell them the whole story in hopes of teaching them that trusting the wrong people can change your life in the blink of an eye.
“I feel like for the first time, I can breathe freely without feeling every day you’re holding your breath for something to happen,” Rampone said. “The sky isn’t falling down on me.”
She’s thankful for her support system and being able to be with her family, but said the grief from the incident will never leave her.
“I’ve always felt deep remorse for the family,” she said. “The whole situation, it never leaves you. You always feel a sense of responsibility.”
Though Marquez said Rampone was unfairly convicted to begin with, he said following the court hearing: “justice was done today.”
Butler is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence at a community transitional re-entry program in Stockton after she posted a Facebook photo of herself holding a gun in 2011. She is eligible for parole in December 2019. Huggins is eligible for parole in November 2019.
Family for Hance and Davis could not be reached for comment Tuesday.