A former Westminster attorney and co-founder of the Hessian Motorcycle Club who has been incarcerated for nearly 40 years for the killings of a fellow Hessian and his bodyguard will be released within 48 hours due to California’s compassionate release laws after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, the office of Orange County District Attorney’s Office has announced.
Thomas F. Maniscalco, 78, was serving a 46-year to life sentence after he was convicted in 1994 of three counts of second-degree murder for the shooting deaths of Hessian Richard “Rabbit” Rizzone, 36, and Thomas Monahan, 28, who served as Rizzone’s bodyguard, Spitzer’s office said in a published statement.
Maniscalco was also convicted of raping and torturing Rena Miley, who was murdered in Rizzone’s Westminster home. Miley was Rizzone’s girlfriend and the 19-year-old daughter of a Los Alamitos Police Department officer, the District Attorney’s office noted in the release.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer criticized the anticipated release of Maniscalco, who has been incarcerated for 39 years.
“Where is the compassion for the victims?” Spitzer said in a statement. “He has taken no responsibility for the lives he destroyed, and soon he will be a free man with nothing to lose. At every turn, the California state Legislature and Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has continued to show sympathy and concern for the murderer but turned a blind eye to the murdered and their loved ones,” said Spitzer.
“Maniscalco didn’t care about the pain and suffering of his victims as they took their last breaths and yet we are supposed to unleash a violent sociopath back into society so he can live out his final days out of custody,” he added. “State law handcuffs judges from exercising their discretion to keep sadistic murders like him behind bars where he belongs and that has to change.”
The compassionate release law prohibits judges from considering the heinousness of the crime for which the prisoner is serving time and limits judges to considering only the prisoner’s current mental and physical condition.
In order to prevent the prisoner’s compassionate release, prosecutors are required to persuade a judge that the prisoner will likely commit a super strike, the most serious strikes under California law, including murder, mayhem and any sexually violent offense.
At Maniscalco’s 1994 sentencing, then-Orange County Superior Court Judge Kathleen O’Leary stated Maniscalco “is an extremely dangerous sociopath.”
“Since he is successful in getting others to do his dirty work, I do not believe he will ever cease to present a danger to society if he is released at an advance age,” the judge said.
Another Hessian, Daniel “Shame” Duffy of Long Beach, was convicted of special circumstances murders in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Another biker, Phil Warren, would have also been charged with the three murders, but he was killed by Oklahoma police in 1982 while the case was still being investigated.
Duffy and Maniscalco shot the three victims multiple times at close range. Miley was found naked, laying on her back and there was evidence she had been raped.
Prosecutors said Maniscalco and Duffy carried out the killings because Maniscalco believed Rizzone was stealing from him in his counterfeiting and methamphetamines distribution ring. Miley and Monahan’s murders occurred because Maniscalco did not want to leave any witnesses to Rizzone’s murder.
Maniscalco’s first trial began in 1990 and ended a year later with a hung jury. A second trial lasted nearly one year and a half and resulted in his conviction.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation did not inform the family of the victims of the upcoming hearing and potential release of their loved ones’ killer, according to Kimberly Edds, Spitzer’s spokeswoman. Family members did participate in the hearing this week after they were contacted by Spitzer’s office.
Prosecutors had less than 10 days to prepare an argument against Maniscalco’s release after an innocuous letter informing the Orange County District Attorney’s Office of the upcoming compassionate release was mailed to its office, Edds said.
There was no follow-up from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to convey any sense of urgency of the looming release of a convicted triple-murderer who had been previously denied parole twice, including in 2020, because he posed a public safety risk, Edds said.