My sisters, Sheridan, Michele and Kristin, have passed on my mother’s pearls to me. I wear them when I feel I need extra love and energy. I wore them to the parole hearing on July 26, 2012.

The parole hearing brought up a lot of feelings, thoughts and memories my family and I have not touched for some time. I realized with help from my dear friend Jaimee Karroll that when Christopher was murdered I was in shock, traumatized and numb. Sixteen years later, I am not numb and it has been very hard. The consequences of Mark James Taylor murdering Christopher will continue. There will be another parole hearing. There will be another after that.

The hearing room consists of four large banquet tables put together to form a square. The commissioners sat on one long side, away from the entrance door; my district attorney and I sat on the far end, with Christina and Lorie behind us. On the other long side, sat Mark James Taylor and his attorney. Two correctional officers sat on each end of Mark James Taylor’s side, one officer by Mark and one officer by his attorney. A large recording device was positioned near the commissioners.

After opening the hearing by saying why we were there, the commissioners proceeded to go through the charges against Mark James Taylor (second degree murder with a gun enhancement), how long he has been in prison (15 years) and details of the crime: Mark James Taylor shot Christopher Robin Hotchkiss in the apartment they shared at school — four times at a close range after an argument about dishes in the proper cabinet.

When Mark was asked specific questions about why he shot Christopher, instead of calling 911 or locking his bedroom door if he was frightened by Christopher’s challenge, he did not have a response. Mark James Taylor is 6’2 and 260 pounds; Christopher was 5’4 and 135 pounds. Anyone can do the math.

Then the commissioners went over what Mark James Taylor has been doing in prison. What jobs he has had. What kind of vocational training he has done. The self-help classes (prison lingo – programming) in which he has participated (none); positive write ups (yes) and bad write ups (two violent and two non-violent).

Next, the commissioners discussed Mark James Taylor’s parole plans. He stated that he planned to live with his mother and sister and go back to landscaping for work. After listening to his plans, the commissioners questioned Mark James Taylor about the suitability of returning to live with his mother, who had written a letter stating the she felt her son had been wrongly convicted and she had no faith in the system.

When we reconvened from a short break, the head commissioner announced: “We have reviewed all the testimony presented today and materials provided, and have come to the conclusion that you will have a seven-year parole denial.”

Mark James Taylor didn’t blink. The commissioners then recommended that he stay out of trouble and enroll in self-help classes.

I felt relieved at the outcome, but no one was happy.

After the hearing, Christina, Lorie and I went out for lunch, all feeling emotionally drained and sad that the person who killed my son was in the place he should be for the rest of his life because he will not look in a mirror and take responsibility. It makes me sad that two lives are being wasted. Christopher did not have a chance to live out his and Mark Taylor is not being an active part of his community – even if that community is prison.

Radha Stern

Radha Stern Since the murder of her son, Christopher, in 1996, Radha Stern has devoted herself to helping others who have lost a loved one due to a violent crime. She created and maintains her website,, to share her experiences throughout her journey from the darkness of grief into the light of gratitude. She is active in Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (formally the Legal Community Against Violence) and the Insight Prison Project, as well as The Compassionate Friends, an organization for parents who have lost a child. Radha is an experienced grant maker, fundraiser, and marketer, and her extensive volunteer activity over the last two decades includes work with trade organizations, advocacy groups, and victim’s rights programs. She is a past member of the Board of Directors for the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation; a program officer for a family philanthropic foundation that supports organizations providing basic services to critical-need populations; and a volunteer at the San Francisco and Marin Food Banks. Radha’ s book, Griefprints: A Practical Guide for Supporting a Grieving Person, will be published this year. She is also a contributor to the inspirational book Courage Does Not Always Roar: Ordinary Women with Extraordinary Courage (Simple Truths, 2010). A native Californian, she lives with her husband, Gary; together they have five children and five grandchildren.

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