A Fairfield man on parole for a grisly murder in Fortuna nearly 30 years ago has now been charged with the death of former local private investigator Mary “Max” Hadley, who was killed March 27 in a motorcycle crash.
Stephen Duane Chiara was arraigned this week on charges of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, drunken driving causing injury, driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher and driving without a valid license.
Solano County District Attorney’s spokeswoman Monica Martinez said Chiara, 48, is being held without bail because he is on parole. He was arraigned Monday and will be back in court June 5 for “further arraignment.”
According to online court records, the state has filed a petition to revoke his parole. He was released from prison in July 2018 after serving 26 years for the murder of Mary Kesser, a young Fortuna mother who returned home to find Chiara waiting for her with a machete.
Chiara, then 20, was hired by Kesser’s estranged husband and his fiancee. All were convicted of first-degree murder in 1992.
Hadley, 55, worked as a private investigator in Humboldt County for many years. She had recently moved to Fairfield and was planning to set up a practice there.
On March 27, Hadley was a passenger on Chiara’s motorcycle when he lost control of the bike on Highway 80 near Fairfield. Both Chiara and Hadley were ejected onto the shoulder of the road, with Hadley being pronounced dead shortly afterward. Chiara spent several weeks at North Bay Medical Center recovering from his injuries.
In 2007 the state Court of Appeal overturned the convictions of Kesser’s ex-husband Richard Kesser and his fiancee Jennifer Leahy, saying the prosecutor had wrongly excluded Native Americans from the jury. At that time Leahy pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was released from prison. Richard Kesser hanged himself in Humboldt County Correctional Facility.
Chiara appealed later, and his sentence was changed from life without possibility of parole to life with possibility of parole.