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Trevor Walraven was convicted of an unthinkable crime when he was 14 years old. He spent nearly 18 years in prison before he was released. In this two-part conversation, we talk to him about the crime he committed, his co-defendant,  how he spent his time in prison, and his emergence as an advocate for giving other inmates a second chance to become productive members of society.

Special Guest: Trevor Walraven

Trevor Walraven spent nearly 18 years in prison for a murder he committed when he was 14 years old. He was released after going through Oregon’s “Second Look” process, which required him to show he had taken responsibility for his crime and demonstrated “outstanding reformation.” He now advocates for criminal justice reform with a special focus on youth, who he argues are more likely to reform and deserve meaningful opportunities when released. Trevor co-founded the Oregon Youth Justice Project under the Oregon Justice Resource Center in mid 2018.

Read Transcript

Yeardley: [00:00:02] Trevor Walraven was sentenced to 30 years in prison at the age of 14 for committing a brutal murder. He ended up serving just 18 years of that sentence, and it took him a decade behind bars before he finally took responsibility for the crime. Trevor was released after going through what’s known as Oregon’s second look process, which requires youth offenders who have served at least half of their mandatory sentence to show they have taken responsibility for their crime and demonstrated outstanding reformation. Meaning, they no longer seem to be a threat to the community and even demonstrate a willingness to contribute to it.

[00:00:44] In our conversation today, we talk to Trevor about what it means to have been given this extraordinarily rare opportunity for early release. The guilt he feels over his brothers and codefendants ongoing incarceration, and his journey to becoming an advocate for criminal justice reform, particularly youth offenders. This is Crime and Punishment Part 2.

[Small Town Dicks theme]

Trevor: I feel like I will forever be attempting to repay a debt. I don’t believe I get to be redeemed. I don’t get to undo what I’ve done. It doesn’t matter if I save 10 million people tomorrow. Those choices are there.

Yeardley: [00:01:33] When a serious crime is committed in a small town, a handful of detectives are charged with solving the case. I’m Yeardley, and I’m fascinated by these stories. So, I invited my friends, Detectives Dan and Dave, to help me gather the best true crime cases from around the country, and have the men and women who investigated them, tell us how it happened.

Dan: [00:01:58] I’m Dan.

Dave: [00:01:59] And I’m Dave.

Dan: [00:02:00] We’re identical twins.

Dave: [00:02:01] And we’re detectives in Small Town, USA.

Dan: [00:02:04] Dave investigates sex crimes and child abuse.

Dave: [00:02:06] Dan investigates violent crimes. And together, we’ve worked on hundreds of cases including assaults, robberies, murders, burglaries, sex abuse, and child abuse. Names, places, and certain details, including relationships have been altered to protect the privacy of the victims and their families. Though we realize that some of our listeners may be familiar with these cases, we hope you’ll join us in continuing to protect the true identities of those involved out of respect for what they’ve been through. Thank you.


Yeardley: [00:02:44] Trevor, I’m curious how you spent time in prison. Your days, did you play cards? Is it like in the movies? What happened?

Trevor: [00:02:52] It’s not quite like in the movies. The way I often reference our societal media view of incarceration is that it really doesn’t represent the loneliness that exists in prison, because it’s a very solitary type of environment. And for me, there were facilities where I did play cards. I learned to play Pinochle early on in youth facilities.

Yeardley: [00:03:19] Pinochle?

Trevor: [00:03:20] Yeah. So double deck Pinochle. Part of what I recognized early on in my incarceration was that if I didn’t seek out opportunities to grow, to have responsibility that I wouldn’t mature at the normal rate. Because there’s this saying, if you will, that says whatever age you go into prison, is going to be the age that you get out.

Yeardley: [00:03:37] What does that mean?

Trevor: [00:03:38] I think it’s largely because you don’t have to think and grow. And especially when you’re young, all of these responsibilities that you acquire come gradually throughout life, because you graduate high school, and maybe you get a summer job your last year or two of high school, and then you’re going to go to college or you’re going to start your first job. You get a car and you have insurance to take care of. All of these things are gradual levels of growth that a normal human being existing in society gets to experience. It’s part of what helps formulate their character and also part of what just helps them develop into someone who can be mature.

Yeardley: [00:04:17] Responsibilities. And in prison, everything’s given to you.

Trevor: [00:04:20] In prison, it’s what you’re going to eat is decided for you, what you’re going to wear, what size of clothes you’re going to wear, what they’re going to look like, and when you’re going to go to sleep, when your lights are going to be turned on, and when they’re going to be turned off. You’re in a very structured environment that largely dictates levels of responsibility that you would otherwise have access to.

Yeardley: [00:04:39] So, how did you decide, I’m not going to stay stuck? Even though I’m actually going to age mentally, I’m not going to stay stuck here at 14.

Trevor: [00:04:48] So, I tried to educate myself as best I could. I read a lot of books. I was regularly volunteering for work opportunities, something that I was raised with was a good work ethic. I didn’t take to it all that well prior to incarceration, times when I should have mowed the lawn when I didn’t and stuff like that. But I was taught like really solid the importance of working hard, and earning a living, and all those responsibilities that go along with it. I certainly strayed from that quite a lot during my latter years of freedom before incarceration. However, that’s part of what drove me to be more responsible while I was inside.

[00:05:25] So, the longest job I held was a job where I learned really all aspects of industrial maintenance in a laundry facility that processes between a 1.5 million and 2 million pounds of linen every month. So, it’s one of the Oregon Corrections Enterprises is a semi state agency within the Department of Corrections that provides higher wage and typically higher skilled jobs than what’s available through the prison itself.

Yeardley: [00:05:50] So, Trevor, during the break you said it took you about a decade for you to take responsibility for what you’d done. What was the turning point?

Trevor: [00:06:01] The biggest turning point and aha moment for me was going through, what’s called, an inside out class. It’s an international program, but there’s roughly 10 to 15 college students from a local university that come into a facility and have a 10-week class with 10 to 15 individuals who are incarcerated. And for me, I didn’t have the confidence or belief that I could really participate in that environment. It was only through a lot of encouragement of my brother who had been taking those classes and opportunities as soon as he had them, which was 2007. But in 2011, I took my first class.

[00:06:36] When you’re incarcerated and for me, growing up in that environment, like, I am my state identification number, I am my last name, I’m not Trevor. In a lot of ways, I am a murderer. I’m the crime that I committed because there is a hierarchy in prison. And so, for all of those things to come into a space where I had a peer group which I didn’t really think I would fit into and be accepted and have a first name conversation with a college student and a professor and be seen as a human being. They don’t know what you did and they don’t know how long you have. And so, professors can, and obviously administration does within the prison, but none of that information is exchanged amongst students. And so, to go through that experience– It was a sociology class. One of the things that the professor said about halfway through the class was “once you know you owe.”

[00:07:28] Again, it was contextual. It was, you’ve learned these things in class about society, and sociology, and how different parts of the United States operate, but also that you’ve had this experience where you have been connected with students and you recognize that maybe some of what you thought were inequities are strengths, or that you can learn alongside individuals that you didn’t think you could. And for the outside students, these people behind these giant walls that are incarcerated are human beings as well, and they made different choices than you did, but that doesn’t mean that they have no value or they should be thrown away.

[00:08:08] I also took a class called nonviolent communications, which really developed empathy in a way that not only growing up in a remote location, but also going to prison early and building up the walls that I had taught me empathy in a way that I did not recognize it before. Between those two things, as well as just continued involvement in the community within prison, I got to a point where I knew, regardless of the legal ramifications, I had to move forward in a different kind of way. That was difficult for a lot of reasons because I had been living that lie to staff and administration and everyone that I worked with. It’s not like you go to prison and then you tell the guys in there, “Yeah, I actually did it.” That’s not how it works.

Yeardley: [00:08:56] So, you were telling everybody, “I didn’t do it. I’m wrongly convicted.”

Trevor: [00:09:01] Absolutely.

Yeardley: [00:09:02] When you start to take responsibility, do you actually change your story or do you just change your story to yourself?

Trevor: [00:09:10] I take responsibility, which means you tell the truth. That comes with, I don’t know, how much it comes with telling yourself a different story other than not telling yourself the lie.

Yeardley: [00:09:21] Right. And since there is a hierarchy in prison, does that not make you a bigger badass, like, “No, I fucking did it. I executed that guy”?

Trevor: [00:09:29] It depends on the peer group that you’re around. So, Oregon’s not a state where you have to be in a gang, but there are gangs in prison. And so, for me, one of the things that OSP has, which is Oregon State Penitentiary, it’s pretty unique in how large of a community there is. It has what’s called clubs. They’re administratively approved organizations. Those clubs came from a 1968 really violent riot. An administration sat down with some of the leading individuals who were residents and said, “We need to create some kind of space to navigate these situations in a very different way and potentially preferably nonviolently.” And the first three clubs came from that.

[00:10:14] Basically, you have a membership of up to 150 individuals who are incarcerated. And those individuals elect an executive body that represent their voice. There’re over 2,000 men at OSP. There’re 11 clubs at OSP. It’s special interest. So, drug and alcohol, NAAA are considered clubs. The Lifers’ Club, which is individuals serving long prison sentences, one of the founding clubs. You have the Lakota Club, native American community. You have the Latino Club. You have the African-American Club, which is Uhuru Sasa. 7th Step, which is geared towards reducing recidivism, growing educational opportunities. Music club for individuals that are particularly interested in music.

[00:10:59] It’s interesting because it can be tough to think about why does this population get this, why is there this benefit? But the flipside is over 95% of those who are incarcerated are going to come back to our communities no different than I did. If we have people that are returning to the community at some point, then I know I want, as a neighbor, someone who’s going to come out and be productive, and I know that these are tools that worked for me to become productive while I was inside, and to grow into a very different human being than who I went into. And so, there’s tremendous value in my mind of having things for people to engage in pro social activities that they maybe never had outside of the prison experience.

Yeardley: [00:11:38] And possibly why they ended up there in the first place.

Trevor: [00:11:41] Absolutely. And if you’re not developing different skills, then you’re going to come back to whatever environment that most often you left and you’re going to have the same skill set. Unless you’ve done something to improve yourself or grow or change or recognize the deeper level of harms that you’ve caused, you’re that much more likely to go right back to the same thing you used to do.

Yeardley: [00:12:03] Right.

Dave: [00:12:04] We’ve had one of our guests has been a man who was wrongfully convicted of murder. He tells his story about being in prison and knowing that he was there for a false conviction. Later, we figured out who it was and freed him as soon as we could. But he talks about being in prison and seeing guys that would get released and then come back and then get released and come back again, and he talked about the frustration and lack of respect from people who were in prison and kept seeing these guys coming through the doors over and over again, and how they didn’t respect their freedom. Are there confrontations where you’d like, “Stay away from me, dickhead”?

Yeardley: [00:12:45] Right, because you don’t get it.

Trevor: [00:12:47] I would say each person’s different in terms of how they navigate that. I would say specifically some of the gang communities on the inside, the bond that they have when they’re incarcerated can be stronger than what they feel of support on the outside. And so, that is some semblance of the reason they exist in the first place is to create that support system for each other. So, it’s been interesting, in my experience, to see some of the old schoolers, if you will, who are still having gang ties, but also wanting something better for their community, and so, being frustrated when guys come back time and time again.

[00:13:22] So, what we see typically is the people that come back, because that’s what we’re faced with. But most people get out, and fade off into life, and live successfully because they’re not coming back to prison. But I think especially in the lens of law enforcement, district attorneys, judges, they’re not faced with those people. You don’t get to see success stories very often, because all you get that interaction with is, “Oh, I know you from two years ago when you popped this liquor store over here, and now I’m getting you for car theft or something worse.” That’s who you see. And so, that then becomes your perspective of, we have a failing system and we certainly have a system that could do much better than it does, but all those pieces have to be factored in. If I know somebody’s out of prison and I don’t see them pop back up on the radar, that’s success. That’s our bar, because ultimately, what we want as a community is people to not create those additional harms.

Yeardley: [00:14:34] Do you credit the success of the people who do successfully fade back into society to the programs that you had available to you in prison?

Trevor: [00:14:43] Sure, that’s a piece of it. Family support is huge. Having a support system come out too.

Yeardley: [00:14:47] So, when you take your message to the world outside now that you are one of those success stories, what are the pieces that you speak to?

Trevor: [00:14:57] It really depends on the audience.

Yeardley: [00:14:59] Speak to these two guys, to these cops, who are the ones who see their repeat offenders.

Dave: [00:15:05] I definitely have a cynical view. I worked sex crimes and child abuse for a majority of my career. So, when we talk about recidivism, there’s such a critical thing that sex offenders not be recidivists that I don’t have great faith in that community to not reoffend. But I’m skeptical also, because now I work patrol as a sergeant, and we get notified about releases, this person’s getting out. And then you come across them, and it’s just like nothing ever changed. He was just on an 18-month time out, and here we are again.

Trevor: [00:15:40] Yeah. I would encourage you to think about the lens that you view things through in terms of who you are interacting with is not the majority of the population that you’ve likely dealt with throughout your career. You’re dealing with that smaller segment. I don’t know anywhere that has a perfect system, because I don’t think one exists. But what I believe is that opportunity is important, hope is important, and so are the development of skills that help an individual grow past those things. I feel like there’re a lot of tools that exist. I was on GPS ankle monitoring for two and a half years. I still have a curfew. Those kinds of things, were they necessary for me? I don’t think so. But I’m grateful that we’ve had those tools to allow society and law enforcement to feel comfortable enough to give me those opportunities.

Dave: [00:16:37] Right. So, you take the good with the bad. When it comes to, this is the hoop I have to jump through to rebuild trust and get to the point where I don’t have an ankle monitor or I don’t have a curfew. It’s kind of incremental?

Trevor: [00:16:51] It is, but I also feel a deep sense of responsibility to earn those things. I don’t feel entitled to anything, but I feel like I earned the opportunities that I’ve been given. I can’t say that that is the whitest felt amongst the entire prison population. But I know a lot of people who that is felt, they don’t feel an entitlement to anything, but they do work hard to better people.

Dan: [00:17:14] Can you walk us through all the different facilities you went to and which ages they were and the adjustment process that you went through at each one of them, so we can understand how–?

Yeardley: [00:17:26] What the differences are between juvenile incarceration and for a violent crime such as you committed versus I don’t know, you broke into cars?

Dave: [00:17:35] Well, and you also get the evolution of the person who’s in custody.

Yeardley: [00:17:40] Indeed.

Trevor: [00:17:40] Yeah.

Dave: [00:17:41] The growth.

Trevor: [00:17:42] Well, in the evolution of our systems. So, my first eight months, I was at juvenile detention facilities, which is basically a short-term. I think I set the record for length of stay there, because they don’t have kids that stay that long. Typically, I saw that revolving door of kids that would come in crying their eyeballs out, saying they would never do this ever again. Whatever it was on like a Friday, and then on Monday or Tuesday they go to court, and then the next week it’s the same old song and dance.

Yeardley: [00:18:09] You mean they would come back?

Trevor: [00:18:10] Yeah, absolutely, in a week or two weeks or a month. And so, that then shapes my lens too and I’m thinking that, “Okay, is this normal?” But the reality is, even in those cases, there is a handful of individuals that you see repeatedly back and forth, but most of them come and go and you never see them again.

Yeardley: [00:18:28] What was your day like? Were you kept in a cell? Was it just dormitories? Did you have sports? Was it school?

Trevor: [00:18:35] Cell. So, that facility had all cells. There was no dormitory. So, all single cells. Volleyball on asphalt was our activity. Because they didn’t really know how to deal with me, I was in solitary and not exposed to any other youth for the first week or two. Eventually, the manager of the unit started bringing me out and playing one on one volleyball with me in order to get a sense of whether or not I was going to be compliant, am I just going to be a wild loose cannon?

Yeardley: [00:19:03] Were you a good prisoner? Were you mean? What were you like in prison?

Trevor: [00:19:06] I was very compliant. I remember being asked to and teaching how to make bed lessons to other youth that I was there with.

Yeardley: [00:19:16] You, master bed maker.

Trevor: [00:19:18] I made a pretty good bed.


Trevor: [00:19:22] I don’t know that you could bounce a quarter off it like they do in the military.

Yeardley: [00:19:24] I don’t know that anybody can bounce a quarter off a bed.


Trevor: [00:19:28] So, my first eight months were at that facility, and then my own county opened up their own juvenile detention facility. Again, short-term, I went there, was there for 11 months before I turned 16. Very similar environments. School is mandatory in a youth facility, if you’re going to be there for more than five days. So, all of those kinds of things, like, you have a teacher that’s coming in to teach you at least on par with what you should be learning. The edge, I guess, I would say that I had on many other individuals is that my brother was up there and going through the systems.

[00:20:00] So, I was known when I got to county jail by officers who had interacted with my brother because my brother was there for a year, and the case was big enough that they knew who I was. So, in a lot of ways, I was looked after on both sides. But I also didn’t know– I wasn’t having conversations with my brother, so I didn’t know all the ins and outs. I can remember calling someone a name in county jail, for example, that was not appropriate for me to do, but I didn’t know any better. It very quickly almost came to blows, but I had someone else step up and say, “Hey, he doesn’t know any better. Hold on a minute.” You know what I mean? That knew a little bit of who I was and said, “He’s going to get a pass on that. If he uses it again, then you guys do whatever you got to do.” To me, look, if you say that to someone, you need to be ready to fight, because that’s a trigger word in here.

Yeardley: [00:20:50] Right.

Trevor: [00:20:50] I didn’t know any better.

Dave: [00:20:51] What’s that term?

Trevor: [00:20:52] It’s punk.

Dave: [00:20:53] Oh.

Yeardley: [00:20:53] Punk. You can’t call somebody a punk.

Dan: [00:20:56] Why don’t you tell her what punk means?

Trevor: [00:20:58] So, punk in prison is someone who bends over and takes it.

Dan: [00:21:03] That’s the significance.

Yeardley: [00:21:04] Oh. And you didn’t know that.

Trevor: [00:21:07] No.

Yeardley: [00:21:07] You thought it was like, if I, Yeardley just said, “Trevor, you’re punk.”

Trevor: [00:21:11] Yeah. I mean, that’s how I grew up with that word association.

Yeardley: [00:21:14] Like a kid saying to another kid, “Don’t be a punk.”

Trevor: [00:21:18] Yeah.

Yeardley: [00:21:18] Right.

Dave: [00:21:19] It’s an atomic bomb in a facility.

Yeardley: [00:21:21] Wow. No way. When you went to adult prison, did you have your own cell or were you with somebody?

Trevor: [00:21:29] I was with someone for the vast majority of that time. Most of the time that I was with someone, it was with my brother.

Dave: [00:21:36] So, your case overlaps with Kip Kinkel’s case.

Trevor: [00:21:40] Mm-hmm?

Dave: [00:21:40] I imagine you guys served time in the same facility.

Trevor: [00:21:44] Yep.

Dave: [00:21:44] You talked about hierarchy earlier. I mean, is there a certain stigma that goes with a school shooter versus somebody who’s murdered an adult in a robbery? How does that work? How does the hierarchy work in correctional facilities?

Trevor: [00:22:00] So, I would say a lot of that hierarchy is dictated by how you engage with the population. So, I saw individuals that committed what is considered the horrible sex crimes, for example, or horrific murders that navigated their time really, really well because of how they interacted with that community. They weren’t ostracized in the ways that you might typically think they would be. Kip is someone who if you didn’t know his background, you wouldn’t know that that’s part of his past. And so, the way he engaged both in youth and adult is recognizing that there’s humongous harm, and he’s trying to make better choices as he moves forward. It’s very different than, again, what you think of in your head, because none of us are our worst choice in life.

[00:22:52] When you take us at the point that we made the most horrific decisions that we ever did, that, in my opinion, shouldn’t define us. I would say most often, if you don’t know that that’s part of someone’s past, you would not label them accordingly. And he’s no different.

Dave: [00:23:10] I think that’s true of anybody. If you’re just going to judge me on the worst decision I’ve ever made. how do I get over that with you? So, I understand that. Is Kip Kinkel and these other juvenile offenders, are they remorseful? How do they behave as adults in custody?

Trevor: [00:23:28] They are, most, I’m not going to say all because I don’t know all, but most of your young violent offenders, especially those who went through OYA, and even those that didn’t are hugely remorseful and impacted by what they did.

Yeardley: [00:23:43] What’s OYA?

Dan: [00:23:45] That’s the Oregon Youth Authority and it’s basically our juvenile justice system.

Trevor: [00:23:50] That’s right. And part of what I think also is lost on society, if you will, is that every moment of every day that you are incarcerated, you are reminded by your very environment that you made choices that put you there, because your very existence is defined by them.

Dave: [00:24:09] Even in the police in patrol when we arrest somebody, my thought in the back of my head is, the sentence is the punishment. Where you’re going and the loss of your freedom is the punishment, there shouldn’t be punishment piled on top of that. You’re already being punished by being sent to a facility and you lost all your liberties. So, making it worse. There was a time and I’m sure it happens in correctional facilities all around, but the move after speaking with prison people in a recent training I had that are the brass at these correctional facilities is we got to start treating these guys as humans, because as Trevor said, they’re coming back to the communities that they were taken away from.

[00:24:51] So, should we give them every chance to grow and become productive and get them to a place where we can trust them when they come out, or do we just treat them like animals? These prison officials talk about just a change in their mindset in the way that they interact with inmates, cuts down fights, cuts down behavior problems, cuts down attention in the facility just by tweaking the way they treat the people that they’re supervising.

Yeardley: [00:25:26] It’s hard to imagine losing a loved one, a wife, a husband, a child. For many of us, it’s our biggest fear. Hey, Small Town Fam, it’s Yeardley, and I want to tell you about a podcast from Wondery called The Vanished. The Vanished covers unsolved missing persons cases that have been overlooked or forgotten by the mainstream media. Every week, host, Marissa Jones, dives into a new case sharing the details of a person’s mysterious disappearance, which she’s gathered from interviews with family, friends, law enforcement, even suspects in an effort to reveal the truth. The Vanished has actually helped secure long overdue arrests, thanks to these in-depth interviews.

[00:26:22] Marissa reminds listeners of the human behind the headline and aims to help family members find their vanished loved one or at least a sense of peace. Enjoy the Vanished on the Wondery app or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you join Wondery Plus, you can listen to The Vanished early and ad free. You can join Wondery Plus in the Wondery app or on Apple Podcasts.


Trevor: [00:26:57] So, I was 19 years, 20 years old when I went to my first adult facility prison. They put me out at Snake River Correctional Institution, which is about as far away from anything as you can get. It’s a very big, very clean facility. It’s one of the newer facilities in the state, but it’s also really far away from everything. Part of leaving the youth facilities when I did was I had acquired my high school diploma. Back then, if you didn’t have a GED or high school diploma, it dictated much more where you went because they were trying to provide GED services for those who didn’t have an education. And so, having acquired that at McLaren, I knew it would be easier for me to try and get closer to family as well as my brother. And so, I was out there for about four months. I came to the Oregon State Penitentiary, I think mid-February of 2004.

Yeardley: [00:27:54] So, when you were at Snake River, your brother was not there?

Trevor: [00:27:57] No.

Yeardley: [00:27:58] What if you have a cellmate that you don’t like? Those are some tight quarters.

Trevor: [00:28:02] They are some tight quarters. And typically, the most agreed upon rule, if you will, is whoever’s there first is more likely to stay there. And again, the most agreed upon rule is that if you go into a place like that and you know that you can’t live with this other person, then you go and say, “I’m going to refuse to sell in,” and then you end up being put in the hole for a disciplinary situation, and then you try again next time. In theory, administration tries to at least weed out some of the– They don’t try to put people together. That’s going to cause problems. But you’re also navigating 15,000 people and several thousand per facility in terms of who’s going to pair up with who.

[00:28:49] So when I got to the adult system, for example, the individual that I celled up with had his paperwork out on the table, because there’s the expectation that I’m going to produce my paperwork, because if I’m not to his liking, then I’m not going to stay there.

Dave: [00:29:01] You want to know what paperwork means?

Yeardley: [00:29:03] Like, what crime he committed and he wants to know what you committed?

Dan: [00:29:06] You remember us talking about rent. That’s where this starts is the paperwork. They want to see your paperwork because if you’ve committed some offenses, you are going to be paying rent.

Dave: [00:29:17] Is that true, Trevor?

Trevor: [00:29:19] It’s true depending on the facility, the unit that you’re in, I mean, all of those things are factors. It’s not true of every single person for this crime is going to pay rent.

Yeardley: [00:29:28] And rent is–?

Trevor: [00:29:30] Rent is essentially giving someone else money or canteen or services in order to not get beat up.

Yeardley: [00:29:38] Everywhere you go, when you would move, they put the paperwork out?

Trevor: [00:29:42] No, not everywhere, but that was a common theme. So, once you’re known in the system, I mean, people know who you are, they know what your background is, so they don’t need to see your paperwork. It doesn’t matter.

Dave: [00:29:54] So, since your release and a simple Google search pops up, all the cases over the last couple of years down where this crime occurred, your victim had a family, what kind of reception has this case received since you’ve been released? I imagine there’s a spectrum.

Trevor: [00:30:13] Yes. Part of how I look at our justice system is there’s the expectation by society that justice is distributed by our court systems. I cannot imagine your normal person processing things, not to feel as though there’s grave injustice when what the criminal justice system has said is justice is then thwarted or undermined or changed. So, I think even had I not received a second look under the statute for ag murder, I would have had my first parole board hearing after 25 years, based on that window of time, which would have felt no different in terms of an injustice. Why am I being considered for release before 30 years? I cannot recognize that and fully support feelings of frustration, if you will, because their family member doesn’t get a second chance, and they were told this is what justice was, and it’s not played out that way.

Dave: [00:31:25] Right. If it was your family member, you’d understand where they’re coming from.

Trevor: [00:31:28] Absolutely, absolutely. The other thing that happens, I think so often, I alluded to this earlier with that every day you live this life and you recognize these things, you also change dramatically, especially when you’re young and you’re growing up in the system. I had someone share this perspective of a parole board where for the first time in decades, you’re exposed to someone as a harmed party or legally termed victim. That brings you right back to the moment of trial and those initial things, because that’s all you know of this person. These are your time frames. That’s why it’s easy to picture them as no different than their worst choice, because that is your lens of them.

[00:32:17] To be told after 16 years that, “Hey, this guy’s going to potentially get out,” and then to have me out, I cannot imagine how frustrating that is. I get that I had a right to these things, but I don’t feel entitled to them. Each day that I have, even on this earth, is a privilege. I very much have grown into someone who doesn’t want to perpetuate harms. And so, knowing those kinds of pieces and having that piece of me, it’s very impactful to know that in many ways outside of my control today, I have continued to cause harm just by existing.

Dan: [00:33:05] You served time with your brother?

Trevor: [00:33:07] I did.

Dan: [00:33:07] Were you guys cellmates?

Trevor: [00:33:09] Yes.

Dan: [00:33:09] Okay. You said that for the first 10 years of your incarceration, how many of those years were actually at OSP?

Trevor: [00:33:19] So, I did five before I got to OSP.

Dan: [00:33:22] So, for five years at OSP, are you living with your brother at this point?

Trevor: [00:33:25] The majority of five years.

Dan: [00:33:27] And you still couldn’t acknowledge your guilt in this crime. Are you guys having discussions? Has he accepted his part of this?

Trevor: [00:33:34] He has accepted his part of this.

Dan: [00:33:36] Is he like all over you like, “Come on, dude”?

Trevor: [00:33:39] No, you mean early on?

Dan: [00:33:41] Yeah. Like, even in these five years that you guys are together at OSP, is he saying, “How have you not wrapped your mind around what you’ve done yet? This is ridiculous”?

Trevor: [00:33:54] No, he hasn’t, any more than I did, because no differently in terms of accepting responsibility. He’s not accepting responsibility just like I haven’t.

Dan: [00:34:07] But his role was quite a bit different than yours.

Trevor: [00:34:09] It was.

Dan: [00:34:11] Was that frustrating for him that you weren’t accepting the responsibility of the circumstance that you’d put both of you in?

Trevor: [00:34:18] I believe it was. What I would say is that he’s continued to grow up and develop. I think that his go to has, for many, many years been like support my little brother. As much as one might think, how you support this individual is by pushing them into a place where they take responsibility for their actions, stubbornness, and digging heels in and saying, “This is the only course that support looks differently.” And so, it’s the same of, “I’m going to be there for you and do this with you as long as it takes for you to get it, and I’m going to be there to support you when you do get it, but I know I can’t change your mind any differently than you can change mine, per se.”

[00:35:09] That recognition that we’re each going to get to our places at different times in life and those same structural components of, I don’t want to take responsibility for this because now I’m a liar. I have to accept that I’m a liar for how much of my time of incarceration. I have to acknowledge the shame that exists with whatever role I did play. You know what I mean? It doesn’t matter. As an older brother, he feels responsible for me. And those vulnerabilities to experiment with, if you will, in prison are not the greatest place to have that level of transparency.

Dave: [00:35:49] Your brother’s case, was it a jury trial?

Trevor: [00:35:52] Yes.

Dave: [00:35:53] Okay. And did you testify in that trial?

Trevor: [00:35:57] I did not, nor did he and my.

Dave: [00:35:59] Okay. His was before your case resolved?

Trevor: [00:36:02] Correct.

Dave: [00:36:02] Okay. And yours was a guilty plea or was it a trial?

Trevor: [00:36:06] Not guilty, trial. Yeah, we both went full trials.

Dave: [00:36:09] Okay. Was there ever a thought for your brother for you to say, I need to testify because my brother wasn’t there.

Trevor: [00:36:18] Yeah, there absolutely was.

Dave: [00:36:19] And you were talked out of that by your legal team or how did that work?

Trevor: [00:36:23] I both fear of what would happen by taking responsibility ultimately. And yeah, legal advice.

Dave: [00:36:30] That you take responsibility, your trial becomes moot because you just confessed in a court of law under oath.

Trevor: [00:36:36] So, one of the ironic pieces, if you will, is that my legal advice never really changed while I was incarcerated in terms of not to take responsibility. For the most part, that’s just how the appellate world thinks. If we get you a new trial and you’ve accepted responsibility somewhere along the line, what’s the point of having a new trial?

Dave: [00:36:57] Right. [chuckles]

Trevor: [00:36:58] Then I ended up in that position because I went through a second look, and then I had my conviction vacated. And so, while my attorney wasn’t like, “See, you shouldn’t have done that,” he was also like, “This is why we advise our clients the way we do, because you have no leverage now.” I was past wanting leverage at that point, but that’s the disconnect between the legal analysis and world.

Dave: [00:37:25] You can’t publicly take responsibility for something that a dozen years or 15 years or 20 years down the line. You get another shot at this and they go, “Well, hey, 15 years ago, he said that he did it. Why are we even here?” I don’t want to belabor this, but your brother is serving time for a murder he did not commit and was not even present for any of it. He was sitting at home in his bed.

Trevor: [00:37:51] Correct.

Dave: [00:37:51] For you as younger brother knowing that he’s there in prison right now while you’re sitting here on a podcast with us, I imagine the guilt that you carry is quite a burden.

Trevor: [00:38:04] Absolutely. And it’s multifaceted because obviously, it’s not just connected to my brother, victim’s family. It’s my extended family beyond my brother who’s incarcerated. I mean, it’s the community that I know was impacted and continues to be impacted. There’s no real stop to the ripple effect.

Yeardley: [00:38:25] What’s the plan for when your brother gets out in 2023? Will you move in together, like, get a cabin in the woods?

Trevor: [00:38:32] No, we will not.


Trevor: [00:38:36] I expect to help him in every way I can to continue to be successful as he is in there. I have no doubt that he won’t be successful in navigating the community out here and doing so in a way that gives back. So, a big piece of what moves me is trying to balance between not wanting to cause any more additional harms. And so, for example, I don’t have a Facebook, simple. Google search does that because I’m not going to post pictures of me on the coast being happy and enjoying life, if that makes sense.

[00:39:13] But I also have an equal, maybe not equal, but a shared balance with the recognition that an entire population of individuals in many ways helped raise me as well as systems in place that taught me morals and values and that are human being no different than you and I. It’s important that I do my part to share that perspective, and that’s really where my advocacy is born from is that responsibility to share my experiences in ways that are hopefully positive, while also not, “Oh, look what I did or look what I get to do,” because that’s not appropriate, in my opinion.

Dan: [00:39:59] What’s the genesis of that? When did that happen? You didn’t just get out and say, “Well, now I’m going to be an advocate.” Do you feel like you’re repaying a debt?

Trevor: [00:40:09] I feel like I will forever be attempting to repay a debt. Different people with different religious aspects have different ideas around redemption. I’m not someone that holds any particular value other than, I don’t believe I get to be redeemed, if that makes sense. I feel like I have a responsibility to live a redeeming life every day, but I don’t get to undo what I’ve done. It doesn’t matter if I save 10 million people tomorrow. Those choices are there. But I do have a good enough head on my shoulders and I do feel a sense of responsibility to do this work in a meaningful way.

[00:40:53] It actually started shortly after I took that inside-out class. I was ultimately elected as the youngest president to serve the Lifers’ Club at the Oregon State Penitentiary and served for my last five years of incarceration there.

Yeardley: [00:41:08] I’m curious, since you spent so much of your time from 14 years, 15 years till, when did you actually get out?

Trevor: [00:41:15] Just before my 32nd birthday, the first time.

Yeardley: [00:41:17] And what year was that?

Trevor: [00:41:19] It was 2016.

Yeardley: [00:41:21] So, all of that time you spent with men. So, you get out in 2016, what’s it like to interact with women? [giggles]

Trevor: [00:41:30] Well, there are women in inside-out classes. There are women who are officers.

Yeardley: [00:41:34] Yeah, but it’s like going to boarding school with men for I don’t know how long, like, a really long time.

Trevor: [00:41:40] Too long.


Trevor: [00:41:43] So, there were certainly ways in which I struggled. I met someone while I was incarcerated who wrote me a letter while I was inside, and we started off on a very correspondent space, and eventually, she wanted to visit. And so, I stepped out into a relationship that I didn’t know what would look like, but I was open to it, and we’re scheduled to be married next year.

Yeardley: [00:42:04] Trevor, damn. How fascinating. That’s fantastic.

Dave: [00:42:22] Does the victim’s family, do they know about your progress and what you’re all about now?

Trevor: [00:42:29] I don’t know. I know that when I was sentenced this last time in 2017, I asked for the opportunity to elocute and actually say something, which I had had during my second look. But part of my uncertainty with the second look in the parole board mechanism, you’re not allowed to speak to anyone. You’re supposed to speak directly to the board. And so, not knowing what the second look was like, I thought that that was the same thing and that I had to talk to either my attorney or the district attorney or the judge. So, I hadn’t made that kind of apology, if you will prior to that even though I accepted responsibility, I’d apologized in many different ways. I wrote a letter.

[00:43:14] In fact, with my initial second look packet, I sent a packet of who I was and what I had been doing. And that went, of course, legally, and the judge received a copy, and the district attorney received two copies, one for the victim’s family and one for them to go through. However, part of what came out during the second look was that the district attorney had decided not to provide that to the family. So, the first time they heard anything from me, which was my writing, the judge actually read my letter of apology and responsibility from the bench, because they had never received that information.

Dave: [00:43:50] To get it into the record and– [crosstalk]

Trevor: [00:43:51] For them to hear it, because, again, they’re left with this 14-year-old, and here he is and he’s bigger. But at the end of the day, how do I know that that’s anything less than–

Dave: [00:44:02] Still the person that shot.

Trevor: [00:44:05] Absolutely.

Dave: [00:44:05] Yeah.

Dan: [00:44:07] What’s your advice to men who are on the inside and trying to get to the point where you eventually got?

Trevor: [00:44:14] I would say for men and women alike, for people inside and outside of prison, I think the vast majority, if not all of us, have the right idea of what we’re supposed to do. We just don’t always make that decision. I think that there’s a balance to taking enough time to reflect in who you are and how you got to become who you are, and whether or not you like that person, and how to move forward. So, for some people, taking a class that is something that’s uncomfortable will bring a whole bunch of success because something you hear there will be great and it’ll move you forward. For others, taking that same class, they’re either not going to hear anything or it’s going to put them further in a hole of stay away from these different engagements.

[00:45:02] So, typically, I don’t believe in cookie cutter responses, if you will. I think we each know enough and have the capacity to learn enough about ourselves to have the vast majority of the time, the right answers, just by listening to who we are and what we know is right and then making those choices, which are not always easy.

Dave: [00:45:23] Yeah, it’s like the magic word. What resonates with me might not resonate with Dan, probably because of his intelligence level.

Yeardley: [00:45:32] [laughs]

Dave: [00:45:34] You got to hit that magic word that it all comes together and the light goes on, you go, “Aha. Okay.” And then you want more of that. We run across this on patrol all the time. Some people just have a conditioned response. This is what they’ve always done, so this is what they’re going to do. We have guys that run from us. Every time we go to contact them, they run. Or, every time we go to contact them, they fight. And in the end, you ask them, “Dude, why’d you run? You don’t even have a warrant. I was just going to see how you were doing, but you took off and you started jumping fences, and now we got to chase you.” And they go, “Because I run. When I see police, I run. That’s just what I do. I know it’s stupid, but this is what I do.”

[00:46:18] So they’re stuck in the goofy loop when it comes to that thing and they just traditionally make bad choices, because that is just their conditioned response, and that’s what they’ve always done. You got to break the cycle at some point.

Yeardley: [00:46:31] I think it’s a little bit like you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable and change is uncomfortable. If you’re asking somebody to do something that they’re not used to, it’s unnerving, it’s uncomfortable, it’s scary.

Dave: [00:46:45] It’s easier to make the bad decision.

Yeardley: [00:46:47] Totally.

Dave: [00:46:48] Yeah.

Yeardley: [00:46:48] It’s the unknown. Trevor, as you were saying, every time you change facilities, you had no idea what you’re going into, and that is unsettling. And so, if we can provide people the resources to know that they can handle whatever is coming toward them, they probably have a better shot at being successful.

Dave: [00:47:09] You run an organization now that you’re out?

Trevor: [00:47:12] So, I co-founded the Youth Justice Project last year. Really, it’s to try and support holistically youth that are caught up in our system. That extends to family members on both sides. It extends to greater awareness of what to expect and what transition looks like, both from out of custody to in custody and from youth systems to adult systems and back out to communities. So, a lot of that engagement and really trying to bring home the idea that kids are capable of change. While I personally don’t think everyone should get out just because they were a kid or whatever the fact is I want people that are safe coming back to our communities, and I don’t want them in our communities as long as they’re going to cause harm.

Dave: [00:48:00] Do you guys have a website?

Trevor: [00:48:02] Yeah. If you do Oregon Youth Justice Project, it’ll come up.

Dave: [00:48:05] Okay.

Yeardley: [00:48:06] We’ll put it on our resources page.

Trevor: [00:48:08] And it’s under the umbrella of the Oregon Justice Resource Center. So, they’re our umbrella organization.

Yeardley: [00:48:14] Awesome. Okay, we’ll do that. Trevor, thank you so much. We really appreciate your candor, and I think this is a really hopeful story.

Dave: [00:48:25] Yeah. I came into this from the law enforcement perspective is that I’m going to be sitting next to a murderer. It’s happened before, just in a different role. I’m impressed with your humility and self-awareness, and I genuinely think that you’re remorseful and I appreciate you coming on the show.

Trevor: [00:48:43] Thank you.

Dan: [00:48:43] Just watching your physical reaction when you were recounting your story, it makes me emotional to see how remorseful you are and I’m happy that you’re remorseful. People think that cops are kind of heavy handed at times and robots, we are not. It’s refreshing to feel emotions when you’re talking about a horrible crime that you committed. I appreciate it. I have a lot of respect for you. I don’t respect what you did, but I respect what you’re doing now, and thank you.

Trevor: [00:49:16] Thank you.

Yeardley: [00:49:18] Thank you so much.


Dave: [00:49:27] Hey, Small Town Fam, Dave here. I just wanted to thank you guys for making our fifth season our most successful yet. We truly appreciate your support of our little journey here.

Dan: [00:49:38] And Dan here, I’d echo everything that Dave has to say. We can’t thank you enough for supporting the work that men and women in law enforcement do across this country every day.

Yeardley: [00:49:47] That’s right. Yeardley here. So, this is the wrap up of Season 5, but we’ll be back for Season 6 on February 28th. In the meantime, if you want more Small Town Dicks, sign up for Patreon. Go to podcast.

Dave: [00:50:04] Every session we record extra content for our Patreon.

Dan: [00:50:08] Not to mention there’s already great stuff on Patreon that we get mail about all the time.

Yeardley: [00:50:13] Exactly. So, Small Town Fam, you’re the best. Thank you for your continued support. Whether you sign up for Patreon or not, we’re so happy that you’re here. Have a wonderful holiday. We hope it’s joyful and delicious and we’ll see you next year.

[00:50:38] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith, and coproduced by Detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Logan Heftel, Gary Scott, and me, Yeardley Smith. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor and the Real Nick Smitty. Our music is composed by John Forest. Our editors extraordinaire are Logan Heftel and Soren Begin, and our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.

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Yeardley: [00:51:33] That’s right. Your subscription also makes it possible for us to keep going to small towns across the country-

Dan: [00:51:39] -in search of the finest-

Dave: [00:51:41] -rare-

Dan: [00:51:41] -true crime cases told-

Dave: [00:51:43] -as always, by the detectives who investigated them. So, thanks for listening, Small Town Fam.

Yeardley: [00:51:48] Nobody’s better than you.

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