NewsTeam 10 Investigates


Family fights to keep their San Diego parents' murderer in prison

The Effrons were killed in 1977.
Posted at 6:08 PM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-29 09:41:19-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The adult children of a San Diego couple murdered in their downtown business by a former employee are begging the governor to keep their parents’ killer in prison.

For Cheryl and Gary Effron, the pain of losing their mom and dad does not go away, no matter how many years have passed.

“Your mind, your soul, your safety, your heart has been torn apart,” said Dr. Cheryl Effron, who lives and works in Orange County.

“One of the great sources of sadness for us is the fact that they didn't get to see our children and grandchildren grow up,” added her brother, Gary Effron, who lives in the Los Angeles area.

A former employee, Jose Gonzalez, forced James and Essie Effron into the basement in November 1977. Along with two accomplices, he bound and beat them to death with a metal pipe.

The Effrons were just a couple of months away from retiring.

“It was horrendous,” Cheryl said. “And that stays with you, that visual that I saw us and stayed with me to this day.”

A jury convicted Gonzalez of first-degree murder. At the time, the state Supreme Court overturned the death penalty and there was no law on the books for life without parole. Every few years, Gary and Cheryl have to fight to keep their parents’ killer in prison.

In early April, the parole board said he was suitable for release — something the Effron children do not agree with.

“He will continue to do what he does, which is to kill people,” Cheryl said.

By Gary’s count, they’ve attended at least 15 parole hearings over the years.

“It's pretty much taken over my life, partly because of the frequency of the hearings, which are… much more frequent than the every three years minimum that they're supposed to be,” Gary said.

He said the full Board of Parole Hearings still needs to hear the case. It then goes to Governor Newsom, who has the final word.

The family is circulating a petition on, urging people to write letters to Newsom. As of Wednesday afternoon, it had more than 5,100 signatures.

Cheryl said the governor must do the right thing, which would be “to keep Jose Gonzalez in prison for the rest of his life.”

“We have to speak for the dead. They can’t speak for themselves, that’s why we’re here,” Cheryl said, holding back tears.

The Department of Corrections said Gonzalez has been eligible for elderly parole since 2015.

Team 10 reached out to Governor Newsom’s office. The spokeswoman said the office has not received the case yet, but they will “review it carefully” when they do.