Murderer sentenced in South Tahoe; Family of victim addresses killer
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – The 1985 brutal stabbing murder of a newspaper columnist that saw one man wrongly serve 15 years in prison wrapped up Tuesday with the sentencing of another to up to life in prison.
Michael Green, 54, was sentenced to 15 years to life for the murder of El Dorado Hills journalist Jane Hylton.
The same DNA evidence that exonerated the man convicted of the murder in 2005, wound up resulting in Green pleading guilty to the murder.
Court was called into session under the honorable Suzanne Kingsbury just before 9 a.m. September 27, 2022 and by 2:15 p.m. that afternoon Michael Green.
The extraordinary case detonated the lives of multiple people over the course of nearly four decades.
Ricky Davis was living in his grandmother’s El Dorado Hills home with his girlfriend Connie Dahl, as well as Hylton and her daughter Autumn.
Hylton’s family was torn apart when her daughter, Autumn Solbrack, was implicated during the initial investigation of the murder, with two other individuals, by the investigators of El Dorado county.
In Solbrack’s victim impact statement she said “aggressive, confession driven detectives” used pressure to induce a false confession from Dahl. This confession was then used to convict Dahl’s then boyfriend Ricky Davis. Neither of them had any hand in what Solbrack called the violent, vicious and animalistic murder of her mother.
For 15 years, Davis maintained his innocence and only recently was exonerated thanks to advances in forensics. In February of 2020 Davis was cleared by genetic genealogy.
Dahl admitted a charge of voluntary manslaughter and testified against Davis, who was serving a prison sentence for bank robbery.
Dahl, who received a year in prison after her guilty plea died of a methamphetamine overdose in 2014.
Davis received $480,000 in compensation from the state in 2020 and filed a lawsuit against El Dorado County.
Those same forensics allowed for Green’s DNA to be harvested from Hylton’s nightgown, where she was bitten by Green the night she was murdered.
The defense presented an argument that due to Green’s age at the time of the murder as well as the lack of violence historically before and after the murder, he should be considered for probation. Green was a high school student at the time of the murder.
Elizabeth Cauffman PhD, a professor in psychological science education was called to the stand to begin the day in court. Cauffman said she was there in a teaching capacity to educate the court on the development of an adolescent.
Cauffman’s research claims the emotional and cognitive functions progress at varying speeds and during late adolescence, between 15-18 years of age, there is a gap between the two. She further explained that while the late adolescent stage allows the individual to understand right from wrong they are also functioning under diminished capacity for impulse control.
The defense called several witnesses from Green’s childhood, some who maintained relations with him into adulthood as well as Green’s ex wife. Each witness was asked if their opinion changed at the knowledge of his confession. All of the witnesses agreed they had been shocked to find their friend had inflicted any harm, let alone taken someone’s life. Green was described by five individuals who knew him in varying capacities. “Jovial, popular, funny, and loving” are words used to describe him before and after the murder.
“There’s just not a bad bone in Mike,” ex-wife Karen Green said just before the prosecution presented the victim’s impact statements.
Hylton’s children stood one by one to describe the “unforgivable loss” that Green had inflicted on their family.
“The why [it happened] and how different my life could have been will haunt me forever,” the second of the siblings to speak, Heather Purvis-McConnell said. “My mother can finally rest in peace, let the healing begin.”
Ardythe Brandon, Hylton’s fourth child, said “I loved my mother and I assume Michael loves his mother too.”
Instead of a statement about her experience she chose to ask questions, “I want to know what he would feel or what he would say to the person who stabbed your mother 29 times. What would you do if you received an early morning call to tell you ‘your mother is dead’.”
The court listened as she described, through this line of questioning, gathering her mother’s belongings from the house, seeing blood on the walls and ceiling and walking through blood soaked carpet.
She finished with a powerful declaration, “We will always have something in common, regretting the stupid decision you made 37 years ago.”
Hylton’s son Ian Purvis echoed his sister’s experiences and pain. The family shares recurring nightmares exacerbated by this continuous uncertainty and the “Crooked finger of blame” pointed at his sister Autumn. His statement was nearly inaudible through grief stricken tears. “All the words we say will never bring my mother back.”
The last to speak of the siblings, Autumn Sobrack, said “You chose to end my mother’s life, you chose her date of death.” She introduces this as her third victim impact statement in regards to the murder of her mother.
Solbrack addressed the defendant with agony in her voice. “You sit very still and almost in a catatonic state, isn’t it ironic that the stillest person in the room is capable of the most violence?”
Just like the four before her, she had a laundry list of questions. Many of the questions started with what if. In 2005, Solbrack said two “crew-cut thick mustached detectives” came to her home and told her they found the people involved in her mothers murder. She was then repeatedly accused of biting her mother and helping to move her bloody lifeless body from the floor to the bed.
Solbrack said “If I hadn’t said the word lawyer at that point in the interrogation, who’s to say how much further the tactics of intimidation would have been used”.
After five separate accounts of the direct results of the murder Green committed, prosecution’s Deputy District Attorney Jay Linden read a statement on behalf of the family.
“You beat her, she had numerous blunt force wounds about her head and face, by your own words you kicked her jaw, you bit her on the shoulder why was that? Was she trying to get away from you? You took out your knife, opened your blade and then you inflicted 29 sharp force wounds, she was stabbed in her head, she was stabbed in the neck, the front and the back she had defensive wounds on hands and arms and tried to keep you from murdering her. You didn’t just kill Jayne that night but destroyed numerous other lives as well. Jayne was 54 years old, and here you are the same age she was, when you killed her.”
Linden asked Green if he had given any thought to who Hylton was; “She was from Canada, working on her real estate license, a journalist for El Dorado Hills. She wrote articles about social events, she had six children, she was a woman who would write poems for each of her children: Mary Jane, Sue Ann, Heather, Ardythe, Ian, and Autumn.”
In closing arguments Green’s defense attorney, Margaret Huscher, belabored the idea that Green was unable to stop himself, as an adolescent, from doing what he knew to be wrong based on the expert witness first called to the stand. Multiple penal codes and rules of the court were presented to plead mercy from the court.
Judge Kingsbury interjected “The Court is not going to put him on probation” which halted further comment from the defense.
In response to the defenses’ closing arguments Linden thanked the court and said “This application for probation is offensive. It is a smack to this family who has endured [this] for decades, in essence you’re saying ‘He got away with murder for 37 years so let’s let him get away some more.’
Judge Kingsbury stated she’s seen a multitude of murder cases and heard argument on adolescent development through her experience.
“After 26 years on the bench this stands out as the single most brutal that I can imagine just based on the sheer number, quantity and type of wounds Miss Hylton sustained. This woman fought and fought and fought and fought for her life.”
“I have found that closure is a myth,” said Judge Kingsbury prior to delivering Green’s sentence. “Both sides will have to make their own closure, I hope that everyone is able to heal as best as they can. I have no doubt that’s what your mom would have wanted.” She added while she was not involved in the initial case she wanted to apologize on behalf of the county to the family for all they endured.
Prior to delivering a 15-to-life sentence, Kingsbury encouraged Green to use all the resources at his disposal in the California department of rehabilitation. “You’re the key to the questions these people have, doing that could ultimately help you with your outcome as it relates to parole. I’ve heard from your friends that there’s a great side of you you have much to offer. You’re still young enough to come out and have a productive life.”
With that the defendant was sentenced and remanded to the El Dorado County Jail until transfer to the California Department of Rehabilitation. Restitution is to be decided after further consideration by the court.
Kurt Hildebrand from The Record-Courier contributed to this report.
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