Rob Hamilton wrote about Ronald L. Sanford

Written by Rob Hamilton
Ronald L Sanford

Marion County, Indiana. 1987. The two elderly sisters had made it clear that they did not want their lawn mowed. But the sisters’ refusal didn’t stop Ronald Sanford and his friend entering the house with intent to steal. If the two criminals couldn’t make money honestly, they’d make it anyway they could. During the course of the burglary, the elderly sisters were murdered.

On the 14th April, 1989, in Marion County, Ronald Sanford was convicted and sentenced to 50 years for the murder of one sister, 50 years for the murder of the other sister, 50 years for Robbery involving serious bodily injury and 20 years for Burglary. The judge stated that all sentences would run consecutively, meaning a total jail time of 170 years. To date (2013) Ronald Sanford has served 24 years and is due a parole hearing in the year 2070.

At this point you may think he deserved everything he got. In fact, some may feel that he should have faced the death penalty for murdering two elderly women, and under normal circumstances, not too many people would disagree with that – but these are not normal circumstances.

No. These are a long way from being normal circumstances.

Ronald L. Sanford was born February 12th, 1974, making him 13 years old when he entered the sisters house. Two years later, he stood in front of a judge in an adult courtroom at the age of just 15. Found guilty on all counts, he was sent to Indiana State Prison to spend his formative years in the company of hardened criminals.

The treatment of Ronald Sanford at the hands of Marion County raises several questions.


Firstly, how does the American justice system equate a 170 year jail term to the actions of a 13 year old boy? Yes, at 13 years of age most boys know right from wrong, and they certainly understand murder. But can a boy of that age truly understand consequences and match them to his actions like a responsible adult would? It’s unlikely, because he doesn’t have the experience or knowledge of life to do so. At 13, life is lived in a blur of new experiences and highly charged emotions.

What does responsibility mean to a 13 year old boy? Not much. He’s just discovered girls, emotions are kicking in, testosterone is rising; responsibility and consequences are just words that adults use to dampen any fun he is having.


I think back to when I was in my early teens, 13, 14, 15. I didn’t murder anybody, (luck or judgement, who knows?) but there’s plenty of things I regret doing and would do differently, given the chance. They were mostly stupid things I would never contemplate doing as an adult. And yet we all do stupid things at 13, because we are just children learning the ways of the world.

I suspect Ronald Sanford would certainly do things differently, but he’s never been given the chance of redemption and never will be. Is 24 years locked in a cage enough punishment? 34, 44, 170 years – how long is enough?

The sign outside Indiana State prison says that even in 1897 they didn’t accept anybody under 16 years of age. Nearly one hundred years later in 1989 that seems to have changed when the prison accepted 15 year old Ronald Sanford as an inmate. Enlightened times in Marion County.

Secondly, how is it possible to place a 15 year old minor in an adult jail without hearing a single protest from anywhere? Quite easily, it would seem. Everybody, including the establishment and the justice department, simply looked the other way. A poor black kid. Who cares? In Marion County, nobody cared.

However, after 24 years, the protests are getting louder, not because Ronald Sanford did not deserve to be punished, because he did and he, himself, accepts that. But I say again – he was just 13 when he committed the crime. What is the point of keeping him locked up for so long? Retribution? Rehabilitation? Has the man not been punished enough for what the child did? Apparently not.


Amazingly, after two and a half decades incarcerated Ronald Sanford is an intelligent, articulate, well adjusted man. Despite living a childhood surrounded by murderers, rapists and rabid gang members he bears no grudges. 

He accepts what he did, he accepts his punishment. “We pushed into the home of the sisters and it ended in a double homicide,” he says, making no excuses. “It was that simple. And I got 170 years. I’m eligible for parole when I turn 100. My crime is tragic, unspeakable. It will stay with me for the rest of my life and be an albatross around my neck.”

Ronald Sanford has never been to a school prom, never driven a car or travelled abroad. He reads books about eugenics and metaphysics, a way of escape for a man who has none.

That’s the reality of life lived in lockdown 23 hours a day. Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way for the child that became the man. Is it unconstitutional in the United States to sentence a minor to life without the possibility of parole? If it isn’t, it should be. Open that blind eye, Marion County, it is never too late to review a case.

Especially one that has stretched to 24 years…     

Information and pictures courtesy:
ITV1 ‘Inside Death Row with Trevor McDonald’

17 thoughts on “Rob Hamilton wrote about Ronald L. Sanford

  1. I have many questions. It seems as if it was a case of he is a poor 13 year old boy with no legal representative and no one to defend him at all. Why is there absolutely no information on his background? Where were his parents? Where are his family? What was his upbringing like? Definatley 13 year olds are normally tried in juvanile courts. Something is seriously wrong about this case. Was the Court System rascist? Even Trevor Macdonald could have asked him these questions instead of deliberating on the crime itself or are people not alllowed to know?


    1. Yes absolutely something wrong I feel this case
      Because a 15 year old boy sentence 170 year old
      What a system I don’t understand

      may be his family poor to approach a lawyer
      Some reason there
      I daily watching this program u tube daily with
      Out fail and thinking about his life mistake happen I can
      Understand ok give 25 years or 30 then release
      Him don’t do with anyone they are not animal
      Human kind should be need
      I really fee very bad about him

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Right question. However answered already. For example:
    Exonerations in the United States, 1989 through 2003
    In this paper we use reported exonerations as a window on false convictions generally. We can’t come close to estimating the number of false convictions that occur in the United States, but the accumulating mass of exonerations gives us a glimpse of what we’re missing.
    America’s Failing Criminal Justice System Feb 24, 2012 | by Graham Gillette
    Judge Tells Harvard Law School
    By Geraldine Hawkins, March 7, 2003
    Eight Myths of Justice
    Innocent Americans are routinely convicted and incarcerated. The new book False Justice explains how.
    “The American criminal justice system almost never convicts an innocent person. Nobody can know the census of innocent inmates. But hundreds of documented cases exist, and Petro, among others, suggests the number reaches into the tens of thousands.”
    By Steve Weinberg November 12, 2010


    1. Thank You Francis,
      this is the answer of a hero, a social hero!
      And of somebody, who knows the system, the
      errors & trials &: tears wept there…


  3. I would love to write a few words of encouragement and support in this offenders life. Although his crimes were dispicable, the society that leaves murder, burglary and worse crimes as an only way out is surely more responsibly than the actual offender him or her self.
    Ronald now needs support to no longer be alone, granted he did deserve jail but the punishment has already took his life enough, what’s the point of now pushing the punishment further the man has paid his dues with his young life and now half of his middle aged life. Surely to learn from him and his crime would benefit more than locking that knowledge away….


    1. We have to face more & more sociological problems, too.
      In a society where it´s normal to handle guns, to hear
      from killing and hurting and hunting people, what
      should a child or a juvenile do to stay upright.
      If You have time, please, read Selma Fraiberg´s book:
      The Magic Years
      Thank You for Your comment


    2. Bravo Fiona,bless you Nobel
      how can we organised and help Ronald Sanford
      I am not rich man but with full my heart I am ready to help and support his release =freedom
      Do anyone know how can we contact and write him



      1. hi, Gregory, please, read the next blog-article here – perhaps yOU´LL learn more about how you can help RONALD SANFORD!
        GOOD LUCK!
        Curi56 blog


  4. I was really shocked when I saw the interview. I don’t pity the 13 kid who commited a murder but I pity the adult educated man who still, facing his desitny, is able to have an intelligent articulated conversation, be polite, act like a respected man.
    As written in the blog. Also me (a 32yo man) did lots of stupid things at the age of 13. Some of them were so wrong that if I got cought I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. I’m pretty sure the rehabilitation wouldn’t work on me. The best punishment was the regret. I promised never do those things again and I thank the all mighty for not getting caught.
    This man has clearly gotten his sentence already and his case must be reopened (or whatever the legal term would be). 170 years – that’s worse than a death sentence!


    1. Thank You for Your Comment!
      This is the reason why I am Blogging here.
      To Show that Humans in Shadow are HUMANS,
      not Monsters, not Zombies o.a.e.
      And a Feeling and empathical Person
      is able to regret – and he/she
      has to get a fair Chance for a new beginning!
      Utmost grieving is the fact that children
      could be in the same Situation: life without parole.
      If You have time, please, read this blog, too:
      and more…
      God bless You and Your Family who stood with You!
      and perhaps You´ll start to write about Your life
      and Your experiences!


  5. Nicola here, from the UK. I find the US system draconic, with regards to the death penalty and sending children as young as 12 to prison for life.

    We, society fail our children all the time, then wonder why they end up comitting crimes. It’s not because they are evil it’s because adults failed them.

    I found Ronald’s interview very touching. What an insightful, eloquent man he is. And that’s am amazing thing considering he has been incarcerated since the age of 13.

    Yes heinous crimes deserve harsh punishments, I am no bleeding hearts tree hugging liberal BUT the US are living in the dark ages, yet at the same time playing the world’s police. Shame on you America.

    Free Ronald L Sanford, and other adults you shoved into the system (rather than help them) when they were children.

    I wish Ronald freedom and a chance to experience a good, loving and honest world. He can do it, he seems to have the tools to do it.


    1. Dear Nicola, thank You for trusting me to send a comment!
      I want to invite You to read my others blog about Humans in Shadow: and
      My desire is to publish that Humans stay Humans – till their last
      breath. And: cum spiro spero. Never give up hope that People find
      the truth how they are and make a Change to go the right way.
      The second aim: I want to make “visible”, how Humans in Prisons
      are treated.
      Even children, elder, women, yes and men…


    2. Dear Nicola, thank You for trusting me to send a comment!
      I want to invite You to read my others blog about Humans in Shadow: and
      My desire is to publish that Humans stay Humans – till their last
      breath. And: cum spiro spero. Never give up hope that People find
      the truth how they are and make a Change to go the right way.
      The second aim: I want to make “visible”, how Humans in Prisons
      are treated.
      Even children, elder, women, yes and men…


  6. What was the race of the judge?
    Who were the jurors (if there were any )
    Can we get more information about the story, the incident .
    Maybe two elderly sisters pointed a gun at him and then he killed them in self defense .
    Did he force inside the house ,why didn’t the two sisters call the police?


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