Local News

Friday, Jan 11 2013 04:50 PM

Man who killed assistant D.A. released from prison

BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer jcox@bakersfield.com

Former district attorney investigator Chris Hillis, who served about 10 years in prison for the grisly death of his boss in Bakersfield, was paroled Friday morning and released to Kern County.

Hillis, also a former Bakersfield police officer now in his late 50s, was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the 2002 stabbing of former Assistant District Attorney Stephen M. Tauzer, who Hillis believed enabled his son's methamphetamine habit.

Hillis' attorney Kyle Humphrey said his client returned home to Bakersfield Friday afternoon, having carried out his sentence in a segregated area deemed safe for law enforcement. Humphrey said Hillis was looking forward to reconnecting with family and friends.

"He has to readjust to the world," he said.

"They (Hillis' family) just want to lead a quiet life and spend time with family and friends.

A spokesman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said that, per judicial orders, Hillis was released from state prison in Avenal after serving 85 percent of his sentence and receiving credit for good behavior. Spokesman Luis Patino said Hillis must report regularly to his parole officer.

"This is not early release. This is longstanding law for all California," Patino said.

Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green said she had been aware of Hillis' scheduled release and that her staff has received no special instructions about him.

"I don't think (his release) has any significance to my office," Green said. "That (crime) was 10, 12 years ago."

"Over half the people here, I would say, didn't work here back then."

Hillis' case gained a great deal of attention locally because of his accusations that then-District Attorney Ed Jagels was protecting Tauzer, Jagels' second in charge.

Hillis said he had "begged" Jagels to keep Tauzer -- a longtime friend of the Hillis family -- away from his son Lance. Hillis accused Tauzer of interfering with Lance's drug rehabilitation and of giving his son gifts and cash as part of a gay relationship, which Tauzer denied.

Lance died in August 2002 in a car crash at the age of 22.

Jagels could not be reached for comment Friday. At the time of Hillis' pleading, however, Jagels stated that the case's outcome was "a proper resolution of the case."

In August 2000, Hillis confronted Tauzer at the prosecutor's home and struck him in the face before calling the county sheriff's department.

Hillis has told The Californian that when deputies arrived, he warned Tauzer to stay away from Lance.

"What I did was half-orchestrated," Hillis told The Californian. "It was bravado. I had to do something."

Hillis said Jagels later called him and promised to keep Tauzer away. But any separation was short-lived.

Jagels has told The Californian that Tauzer had Lance's best interests at heart, and that Tauzer saw the young man as a "project."

Tauzer was found dead at the age of 57 in the garage of his northwest Bakersfield home Sept. 15, 2002. Sheriff's Department officials said he died of multiple stab wounds to the head. DNA evidence found on the knife pointed to Hillis.

Bakersfield.com Daily Deal!

Stylz MMA

Daily Deal

$20 of Merchandise for $10 from Stylz MMA

Value
$20
% Off
50%
You Save
$10
1 Bought
Buy Now! See more deals