Harriet's Story



September 3, 1979 forever changed the lives of Mike and Harriet Salarno. Their eldest daughter, Catina Rose Salarno, was senselessly murdered “execution style” at the University of the Pacific in Stockton on her first day of college when she was only 18 years old.

In the years following, the Salarno family endured the frustrating criminal justice system that tilted too heavily toward preserving criminal rights while barely addressing the rights and needs of victims and their families.

In 1982, Harriet co-chaired the Crime Victims Bill of Rights effort which established a historic turning point for victims of crime and set off a national wave of states enacting similar laws. Since then, Harriet has been instrumental in bringing change to various states’ criminal justice systems.

Crime Victims United was born from Harriet’s passion to fix this problem and ensure no victims’ family would again experience the anguish of fighting their own criminal justice system.

Through Harriet’s leadership, Crime Victims United grew quickly and is today recognized as the Nation’s most trusted victims’ rights advocacy group.

In 2008, Harriet helped rally victims’ groups to assist in the passage of the Marsy’s Law constitutional amendment ballot measure. This measure added 17 specific victims and victims’ families’ rights into the California Constitution. This victory represented the first time any state constitution had specifically addressed and protected victims’ rights. Harriet has also spearheaded the multiple battles to save California’s death penalty from being abolished.

A graduate of the University of Southern California, Harriet was appointed by former Governor Pete Wilson to the California Council on Criminal Justice, the State Advisory Group on Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention and the Commission on Judicial Performance. She was also appointed by former San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan to the City’s Juvenile Justice Probation Commission.

Harriet has received many awards including the Doris Tate Governor’s Award, the California State Assembly “Woman of the Year” by Assemblyman John Burton, the California Correctional Peace Officers’ Association John Wayne Award and the Golden Badge Foundations Victim’s Advocate Award.

Harriet’s national leadership includes appearances on “Nightline” and “48 Hours” and as the subject of articles in Woman’s Day and Ladies Home Journal.

Harriet Salarno lives in the greater Sacramento area of California where she directs the staff and legal team at Crime Victims United’s national office.

She has also worked on several propositions in the state of California that call for protection of victims’ rights including;

  • Prop 8, Victim’s Bill of Rights (1982)
  • Prop 172, Half cent sales tax for public safety (1992)
  • Prop 179, twenty years to life for second degree murder for drive-by shootings (1994)
  • Prop 184, Three strikes (1994)
  • Prop 189, Allows no bail for felony sexual assault charges (1994)
  • Prop 195, Added three types of murder to special circuits allowing death penalty (1996)
  • Prop 213, Preventing DUI drivers from suing civilly and preventing criminals from suing for injuries sustained during their crime (1996)
  • Prop 222, Punishment for second degree murder of a police officer is life without parole and all murder convictions receive no credits (1998)
  • Prop 18, Murder by lying in wait, arson and kidnapping added to special circuits list (2000)
  • Prop 2, allowing juveniles to be tried as adults without juvenile court approval for certain crimes. Mandates detention for crime, does not allow informal handling for felonies, barring the sealing of records for certain crimes, and increasing punishment for gang crime (2000)
  • Prop 83, Jessica’s Law, sex offenders requires prison not probation for certain crimes. Cannot live within 2000 feet of school or park (2006)
  • Prop 9, Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights, Marsy’s Law (2008)
  • Prop 35, human trafficking, increased prison sentences, must register as sex offenders and must register their internet accounts (2012)

We are rejoicing that in 2016 Steven Burns (C0\-20341), the murderer of our daughter and sister, was issued a 5-year denial of parole. We can’t thank you all enough for all the support, prayers and resources you have given us during this time. Justice will prevail.

Sincerely,

Harriet Salarno

Lance and Regina Novello

Nina Salarno and Jim Besselman, Jr.