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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Shock Gives Way to Hope Then Doubt for 1 of the 5

July 25, 1999|MARGARET TALEV | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Brandon Hein is 22 now and behind bars at the Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City.

Of the five young men incarcerated, he was the only one interviewed for this story. Micah and Jason Holland could not be reached. Chris Velardo and Tony Miliotti, at their families' advice, declined to be interviewed.

In a five-minute telephone interview from prison, Hein described his progression of emotions over the last four years from shock, to confidence in the appeals process to growing doubt and fear.

He would not talk specifically about any negative experiences in prison, but says inmates are afraid of one another and "constantly on alert." In prison culture, he says, "Every time you move up a step, you get knocked back down three."

"I always thought in the back of my mind, 'I'll get out, because I've changed,' " he says. "I have learned to be patient.

"It's starting to hit me kind of hard as time goes on because I realize how hard it is to get out," he says. "It's not as hard to get in. There's a lot of people in here for life."

He says he hangs on to hope because of family and supporters, who pushed him to get a GED and take college courses. He wants to get involved in a program in which inmates speak to teenagers about the dangers of losing focus in school and experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

"I'm trying to explain to these kids that you don't have to be in this crazy lifestyle," he says. "At the time [partying] doesn't seem like a big deal."

He says the consequence of Jimmy Farris' death was unimaginable. "It kind of was." He stops short, unable to find the right words. "None of it was intentional."

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