Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
PAROLE DENIED FOR MAN WHO RAPED AND MURDERED STEPMOTHER AND
FAMILY FRIEND IN 1975
SANTA ANA – The Board of Parole Hearings, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations, denied parole today for a man who raped and murdered his stepmother and a family friend in 1975. Gregory Coates, 54, formerly of Rubidoux, is currently being held at California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo. Coates will be eligible for his next parole hearing in 2021.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and Riverside District Attorney Paul Zellerbach opposed the parole and Orange County Deputy District Attorney Matt Lockhart, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Judy Beck, and several family members of Riverside victim Jean Stephens appeared at the hearing to defend public safety and advocate for justice. There are no living relatives of Orange County victim Betty Coates.
The Board of Parole Hearings, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations, specifically cited the inmate’s continued failure to accept responsibility for the rapes, lack of credibility due to inconsistent versions of his crimes over the years, and the threat posed to women if released as reasons for Coates’ 10-year denial.
Orange County Murder of Betty Coates
On May 4, 1975, Gregory Coates, then-17, raped and murdered his 48-year-old stepmother Betty Coates in her home. After sexually assaulting the victim, he bludgeoned and suffocated her to death and then wrapped her body in towels, doused her in gasoline, and set her on fire. In October 1975, the inmate was convicted of Betty Coates’ murder. During the course of Betty Coates’ murder investigation, police linked Gregory Coates to a Riverside County murder from earlier that year.
Riverside County Murder of Jean Stephens
On January 22, 1975, Gregory Coates burglarized the Riverside home of 37-year-old Jean Marie Stephens, his friend’s mother, looking for firearms to steal and sell. When Stephens discovered the inmate, he knocked her down with a dumbbell, raped her, and bit her stomach throughout the sexual assault as she screamed for help. Gregory Coates then murdered Stephens by shooting her twice in head with the firearm he had stolen from her. The inmate left the victim’s battered, naked body in a pool of blood. She was found by her 11-year-old daughter. In June 1976, Gregory Coates was convicted by a jury for Stephens’ murder.
For both murders, Gregory Coates was sentenced to 12 years to life in state prison based on the sentencing laws of 1975.
Failure to Accept Responsibility and Danger to the Public
Despite the fact that Gregory Coates confessed to his crimes after his arrest for the Orange County rape and murder, he later claimed that he discovered his stepmother naked in her bedroom and she “reluctantly agreed” to have sex with him. The inmate claimed that he murdered Betty Coates only after she threatened to tell his father that she had been raped by Gregory Coates. In 1991, Coates finally admitted to raping Betty Coates to stop her from screaming.