Del. man acquitted in '90 now due Md. murder trial

July 25, 1992|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Staff Writer

A man acquitted of murder two years ago in Delaware when police couldn't produce a body is to stand trial in Maryland on the same charge now that the victim's bones have turned up here.

A Kent County grand jury voted Thursday to indict Ronald Gillis, 46, of Clayton, Del., in the 1986 death of of Byron Wendell Parker of nearby Middletown.

Mr. Gillis was arrested at his home and held pending a hearing on his extradition to Maryland.

Suzanne Hayman, the Kent County state's attorney, said the not-guilty verdict in Delaware does not protect Mr. Gillis from trial on a similar charge in Maryland because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states have dual sovereignty.

Since police now are charging that Mr. Parker was killed in Maryland, she said, a second trial won't violate Mr. Gillis' constitutional protection against double jeopardy.

Mr. Parker disappeared on Sept. 25, 1986, the day before his 35th birthday and not long after the two men had quarreled about a $1,200 car-repair bill.

Delaware police eventually charged Mr. Gillis with Mr. Parker's murder, the first time in that state that prosecutors had ever tried to get a first degree murder conviction without producing a body.

But without being given proof that Mr. Parker had died, a jury in April 1990 brought a 10-day trial to an end when it found Mr.Gillis innocent.

Five months later, a hunter found skeletal remains amid debris in a wooded area of the Millington Wildlife Refuge on this side of Maryland-Delaware line, state police in Centreville said.

Maryland State Trooper Paul Kelley of the Centreville Barracks stayed with the investigation for more than four years. Trooper Kelley said that police eventually brought in a forensic anthropologist from the Smithsonian Institution to help with the case.

Dental records identified the victim as Mr. Parker, and in June 1991 the medical examiner's office in Baltimore ruled that he had been killed by a gunshot.

According to evidence introduced during the Delaware trial, Mr. Parker had won a civil judgment for $1,200 from Mr. Gillis in a dispute over repairs that weren't made to Mr. Parker's van. A sheriff's auction of Mr. Gillis' vehicles to pay off the debt was scheduled the day Mr. Parker disappeared.

Mr. Gillis told the jury that he dropped Mr. Parker off in Odessa, Del., the day he disappeared and that the victim drove off with a group of men headed toward Atlantic City.

Delaware police introduced evidence of blood in Mr. Gillis' car.

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