The Power to Keep My Aunt’s Murderer in Prison

My periodic ask for help to deny the parole of the man who stabbed my aunt to death.

Rick Kitagawa (he/him)
4 min readAug 26, 2022

If it wasn’t obvious, tw: domestic violence, murder

Please? To go sign the petition, go here:

A few years ago, I wrote this article about how petitions, while often seeming like some throwaway virtue-signaling, can actually work, from personal experience.

That said, as I age, I tend to understand power better and better, and from studying leaders good and bad from around the world, I’m not sure they’re the best tool for change in every situation.

But. For some, especially those fighting localized fights (as opposed to say, fighting huge global fights like trying to get Big Oil to never use oil again) petitions can be incredibly powerful.

If you’ve read the linked article, you know that my aunt, Debbie Saiki, was murdered when I was eight. While I’m tempted to call it a major inflection point in my life, let’s call it what it is: a trauma.

Yet while I’m grateful this trauma has turned me into the feminist who loves the horror genre I am today, it’s still a trauma, and it’s never easy for me to sit and write about the murder.

Thankfully, the murderer who killed my aunt was caught, arrested, tried, and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. It wasn’t hard — it was the man she married, and he did a fortunately terrible job of hiding the murder weapon and his bloody clothes in a storm drain farther down the block from where they lived.

Every time Russell, my uncle-turned-killer, comes up for parole, with the support of my community, family, and friends, we’ve been able to use the power of petitions and community action to convince the parole board to keep him locked away and off the streets.

Honestly, part of me wonders if a 62-year old man is still a threat to society. But then I think of his complete lack of remorse and ownership over what he’s done.

I think of Debbie’s mom, well into her 90’s, who still lives in the home she did when she first welcomed Russell into the family as a son.

I think of Debbie’s nieces and nephews and their children.

And I remember that this guy perforated my aunt with kitchen knife, and I remember why I grit my teeth and fight back tears to write something new every time he’s up for parole. I can’t sit by knowing that he could do it again. After all, people who don’t take ownership of their actions don’t change.

So I’m asking you to help me out and sign this petition to keep this threat safely locked up and behind bars.

That, and please, recognize your own power.

I remember as a 8-year old grappling to understand himself and the world around him being completely enraged at how life wasn’t fair. How someone as wonderful as my aunt didn’t deserve to be stabbed to death in her own kitchen by the man she loved. I felt powerless to do anything then. I was completely and utterly helpless.

As a 39-year old, I’ve accepted the unfairness of life.

I’ve also accepted that I have limited power myself.

But what I haven’t accepted is being helpless.

No matter how small you might feel, know that there are others out there like you who care about the same things and are willing to help.

If you have power, please please please use it for the betterment of society. Yes, it’s more responsibility and work, but that’s the cost of having power in the first place — responsibility. Not all of us have the power to challenge a system by ourselves.

But that’s the thing — we might not have power to change outcomes by ourselves, but if we can leverage collective power, together we become a movement and can move mountains and shape destinies.

So even if you don’t have power individually, that doesn’t mean you’re helpless. Remember that by speaking up, asking for help, and sharing your story, you never know what you’ll be able to do. You also never know who else you might inspire to do so as well.

Again, I’m asking for you to share your power and your voice and help me keep a dangerous man off the streets. Thanks in advance.

Petition link:



Rick Kitagawa (he/him)

Amzn best-selling author talking trust, leadership, #NFTs, creativity, and horror fiction — Co-Founder,