Death Row Inmate Michael Flinner

From, Oct. 23, 2003:

EL CAJON – A landscaper who took out a $500,000 insurance policy on his fiancee and an ex-employee he hired to kill her were convicted today of murder and special circumstances that could lead to the death penalty.

Michael Flinner, 36, and Haron Ontiveros, 30, were found guilty after deliberations that began Oct. 9.

Separate juries heard the cases against the two men.

Flinner, the fiance of 18-year-old Tamra Keck, and Ontiveros – also known as Juan Delatorre – were convicted of murder and special circumstance allegations of murder for financial gain and lying in wait.

On August 1, 2012, Michael Flinner ( writes me:


…I’m a 45-year-old Jewish former landscape contractor from San Diego, writing to you from the haunting empty confines of Death Row at San Quentin State Prison…

Just weeks prior to my Bar Mitzvah while in our “esteemed” commmunity rabbi’s study, I found myself at the tender age of 12 1/2, standing before the only authority figure I had ever known (or recognized) outside of the comforts of home, naked from the waist down, huge hungry hands grasping each side of my ass, and a tallit wrapped completely around the rabbi’s head and shoulder as he orally copulated me, chanting some sort of Hebrew prayer and professing that God uses him and other rabbis as vessels to secure a place in Heaven (by planting a seed) so that when we died, I and all others who have carved their paths unto adulthood through Torah, may live on… Once is all it took to literally spin my life into the downward spiral that has resulted in poor decision making and a complete disregard for any authority.

Thirty years is a very long time to wait for anything, much less to harbor that degree of pain from having my youth stolen from me — somehow being so stupid as to become someone’s victim.

The event manifested itself over the years into what I define as an insatiable appetite for sex, an unruly addiction to cocaine, and a true nonchalant attitude toward life… I actually caught a case in the last part of 1990 with my (now deceased) son’s mother and took my first trip to state prison for almost nine years. She (Pamela) was bi-curious which for obvious reasons from the mindset of an addict, was a welcome alternative to the monogamy game we’d been playing. Many women found their way in and out of our bed but it wasn’t too long thereafter, until that too just wasn’t good enough. Drug use prior to and during these encounters would end up nearly tearing our entire family unit apart. Secrets were divulged and one just wouldn’t stop haunting me — Pam had been date-raped by a former ex-lover. Despite that it occurred prior to our union, I saw the ruin in her eyes and I couldn’t let it go. Emotions acting without the benefit of intellect, I set out to avenge her pain. After I got that out of my system by nearly killing her rapist, she and I would later be accused of a sex crime ourselves. There were drugs and poor judgment, but no crimes ever took place (that I recall) behind our bedroom doors, unless quasi-savage sexual indulgence constitutes acts that are later deemed to be less than consensual… I accepted a plea agreement for several of the trumped up charges in exchange for Pamela and my infant son (now nearly 23) being given immunity from prosecution.

…Even prior to going to prison in 1991, I was a trusted and loyal comrade of the late Irv Rubin of the JDL. With an on-call role when he would travel south of San Juan Capistrano, I became his handler. Both he and Earl Krugel were friends of mine long prior to their murders (and yes, they were murdered) in custody — Irv while awaiting trial and Earl just a few days into his 20 year sentence in the Feds.

I met Irv by accident. I came upon him and his then toddler son (Ari) in a grocery store parking lot in Encino. I happened upon them by God’s will which enabled me to prevent them from an armed assailant who held a large knife in hopes of cashing in for Thanksgiving (it was a rainy November in 1988). We became fast friends and looking back today in spite of my passion for Judaism, I wish I would’ve just shook his hand and walked away. Instead, I allowed him to shower me in approval, showing me off to his colleagues, and telling everyone how I had simply walked up on his deathbed and stuffed a handgun in his would-be assailant’s mouth. This all occurred long before the first trip to prison, but at that point, I was already buried in the criminal element.

I’m too loyal to the people I love. That’s how I finally came to rest in this dungeon, letting my emotions act without benefit of intellect.

While living a peace-filled life (post-prison) and having moved on and into bigger and better things, my amazing live-in girlfriend Tamra got herself killed by one of my employees. Upon arrest, he told the cops that I had hired him to kill her. I did not kill anyone…

Shortly after I began putting my memories on paper, I learned that my abuser (Rabbi Frankel) had died. When I was his pupil, the shul (Temple Beth Shalom) was in Chula Vista, California.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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