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Home Articles In the News Violent Abuser, Murderer, Up for Parole

Violent Abuser, Murderer, Up for Parole

What happens when the criminal justice system doesn’t consider abusers threats to the public any longer?

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Nicole Sinkule killed by abusive partner

Pictured: Nicole Sinkule. Photo courtesy of Nicole's mother. 

Update: During the week of March 31, 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom reversed the parole for Eric Marum. Claudia Sinkule says she feels "a sense of peace" but is also "ready to continue the fight. In 18 months we do it again." 

On Oct. 16, 2005, a knock on Glenn and Claudia Sinkule’s front door would change their lives forever. 

“When I opened the door, there was a woman detective and another gentleman, dressed completely in black. At that moment, something left my body. I knew something bad had gone on,” says Glenn.

He called his wife down from upstairs. 

“I let them tell us both,” said Glenn. “Claudia went running. She was screaming.”

The couple was informed that their 25-year-old daughter, Nicole, had been found in the bedroom of her home, murdered. The suspected killer was her boyfriend of over a year, Eric Marum, the man she’d told her parents was “mean” to her. The man she had just decided to break up with.

‘She Loved Everybody’

Nicole used to drive her car way too fast, remembers her parents. She liked to help the homeless, she liked Janis Joplin and The Doors. She was on the swim team in high school. She had a very close relationship with her sister. 

“She loved life. She loved everybody,” says Claudia. 

That fall day was a parent’s worst nightmare come true, and one that the Sinkules had tried desperately to stop. They had moved from Palm Springs to Oceanside, Calif., just weeks prior to be closer to their daughters Nicole and Danetta, and partially because they knew Nicole was in a rocky relationship. They were worried about her. 

“Nicole told little bits to different people, but we never got together and compared notes,” says Glenn. Both parents suspected abuse—emotional and physical. Two weeks prior to her murder, Nicole had broken her leg. She says she fell off a bike, but her parents believe she was trying to cover for something else. 

The year prior, Glenn says he could sense a change in his daughter—something was wrong since she’d met Marum. He tried to press, but all Nicole would tell him was that her boyfriend was “being mean to me.” Glenn asked if he could help her. 

“No dad, I’ll take care of it,” she told him. 

Leaving Is the Most Dangerous Time for Domestic Abuse Victims

The night before Marum took her life, Nicole seemed especially shaken. She wanted the relationship to be over for good. When Marum showed up at Claudia and Glenn’s house, where Nicole was visiting, Claudia sent him away. She says she could sense fear in her daughter. 

Later, Claudia took Nicole back to her house and helped her put Eric’s clothes out on the porch, sending a clear message that he was not to come in; they were through. Claudia says she hesitated to go back home, to leave Nicole there, but Nicole assured her she would be OK. It was the last time Claudia would ever see her daughter alive. 

Abusive partners often escalate violence when they realize they’re losing control of the victim, such as when the victim decides to leave. Safety planning is instrumental and judging your threat level can help you determine what sort of additional precautions to take.

Claudia would later learn that, after she left her daughter’s house, Nicole brought Marum’s clothes back inside. Maybe she changed her mind. Or maybe she was scared. 

Later that night, Marum came home, took a hammer out of his tool chest, went into the bedroom where Nicole was sleeping and, using the claw end of the tool, struck her 13 times in the head, killing her. He left the tool embedded in Nicole’s skull and then left. 

‘He Took Everything Away’

Marum was arrested and trialed, ultimately being found guilty of second-degree murder. The judge handed him a sentence of 16 years to life in prison. 

Claudia vowed to be at every one of his parole hearings, to ensure he’d never see life outside of prison again. 

“He took everything away from us. He ruined our lives,” she says. For years after the loss of her daughter, Claudia suffered daily panic attacks. Glenn had a heart attack two years after his daughter’s death. The trauma irrevocably changed Nicole’s older sister, Danetta, who has struggled with trusting anyone since that night. 

“It’s always with us, every day,” says Claudia of the trauma and grief the family experiences. 

The Sinkules dreamed of retirement and a home full of grandchildren–the latter of which they blame Marum for taking away, among so much else. Instead, their days now are filled with advocacy—they run the Nicole Sinkule Foundation to help reach other survivors of domestic violence. And, of late, they’ve begun a new fight—to keep Marum from being a free man again.

Last November, members of the California Board of Parole granted a recommendation for Marum to be paroled. It’s possible that soon, he could be a free man, says Claudia. This month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom will be the final deciding factor when the recommendation crosses his desk—he has 30 days to either do nothing, in which case Marum would receive a date for release; deny it, and Marum would get another hearing in 18 months; or accept it or return it to the full board of commissioners for a review of their decision. DomesticShelters.org reached out to Gov. Newsom’s office for comment but did not receive a response. 

No Longer a Risk

In court transcripts obtained by DomesticShelters.org from the parole hearing, Marum admitted to killing Nicole, saying domestic violence classes he took in prison helped him realize the causes of his abuse.

“I hated myself, so I hated everyone else. And because I chose to keep using meth, I was delusional. I felt like I was losing my mind and I blamed Nicole for it. I believed that if I killed her, everything going on in my head would stop,” said Marum. “It tapped into my sense of entitlement. It tapped into the repressed emotions that I had over the years from just withdrawing. And it tapped into my complex about being controlled, which went all the way back to my childhood.” 

Marum vowed he would change if released. 

“After killing Nicole, I was horrified of what I've become.” 

The Sinkules say Marum never outright apologized to them during the hearing, or any other time, for what he did to their daughter. And after listening to victim impact statements from Nicole’s mother and sister, as well as seven others who all attested how dangerous an individual they believed Marum to be, Commissioner David Long seemed undeterred. 

“…This is an extremely difficult case today. One of the most horrific crimes I think anybody's ever seen….,” he said. “However, based on the legal standards that we have to abide by, and the evidence considered, we must find that you [Marum] do not pose an unreasonable risk to public safety and are suitable for parole today.”

Watching the hearing remotely, Claudia says they were in shock. “They heard graphic things,” she says. “I don’t know how they’ll sleep.”

DomesticShelters.org reached out to Commissioner Long’s office for a response but was told the office cannot comment on specific inmates. 

In his statement, Long continued by saying that Marum’s offenses escalated over time. 

“You committed multiple crimes and crimes that escalated in seriousness and committed multiple probation violations, violated restraining orders, didn't complete your programming for substance abuse and domestic violence. That is an aggravating factor. You were unable to control yourself. You have no self-control… throughout your criminal history. You were unable to control your behavior.”

However, Long said the risk factors were “largely addressed” through Marum’s completion in a number of prison programs which included anger management, Alcoholics Anonymous and something called “Cage Your Rage.” He also mentioned a Relay for Life fundraiser Marum participated in.

The commissioner also cited Marum’s age at the time he chose to murder as a mitigating factor. Marum was 25 at the time.

“With regard to diminished culpability of youths as compared to adults, we know at the time of the crime parts of your brain were not yet fully mature, which results in a lack of impulse, an inability to plan ahead and an inability to avoid risks,” stated Long.

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Claudia and Glenn said they were unable to comment after Long’s ruling, their mics muted. The hearing ended, and that was that. The determined parents started a petition on Change.org in response. At press time, it had surpassed its 7,500 signature goal. 

Glenn says he believes, “without hesitation” that Marum will reoffend if released, and Claudia believes. They also fear for Nicole’s sister. They say Marum appeared at her bedroom window the night he murdered Nicole. They’re not sure what his motives were, but they’re certain he remains a dangerous man. 

“We’re all fearful,” says Claudia. “He’s going to live next to someone’s family.”

Reaching Other Parents

The Sinkules would offer the following advice to other parents who have children trapped with abusers.

“Safety plan, first of all,” says Claudia. A guide to domestic violence safety planning can be found on DomesticShelters.org.

And, adds Claudia, remember that violence is never the victim’s fault. 

“Don’t be ashamed. Possibly Nicole was ashamed,” she says.

Survivors can experience trauma-related guilt, which prevents them from reporting abuse, along with fear of repercussions. Read about one survivor’s experience with this at “Ask Amanda: I Feel Guilty for Putting Him Away.”