Man guilty in N.Y. killings

2 victims were to testify against him in Balto. Co.

Sex abuse case was from 2001

Mother-in-law was shot with her daughter in 2002

October 07, 2004|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

A Randallstown man accused of killing his mother-in-law and her daughter execution-style in the basement of their home in New York state to prevent them from testifying against him in a Baltimore County sex abuse case has been convicted of murder.

Vernon E. Parker Jr., 34, a truck driver and part-time bounty hunter, could be sentenced to a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole in the deaths of Valerie Spears, 50, and her daughter, Devin, 14.

The mother and daughter were killed July 20, 2002, in Binghamton, N.Y., 10 days before they were scheduled to testify against Parker in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

As Alvin Charles Lloyd, Valerie Spears' older brother, prepared to leave Binghamton yesterday after nearly a month in that city for Parker's trial, he said he hoped that the outcome of the trial would help the family begin to heal.

"Nothing's going to bring Val and Devin back," he said. "We have memories, and that's what we will have to subsist on."

Lloyd, who has visited the graves of his sister and niece nearly every day for the past month, said he planned to make one more visit to the cemetery yesterday afternoon before returning home to Syracuse, N.Y.

"Today, I'm going to go with a different message," he said. "I'm going to tell them, `We got him. We got him.'"

A Broome County, N.Y., jury deliberated for five hours Tuesday night before returning guilty verdicts on multiple counts of first-degree murder, ending a trial that lasted more than three weeks as jurors heard from 87 prosecution witnesses and two for the defense.

Prosecutors told jurors that Parker - who had been charged with sexually abusing Devin in the summer of 2001 while the teenager was visiting her sister, Parker's wife, in Randallstown - killed the girl and her mother to prevent that case from proceeding.

District attorney

Broome County District Attorney Gerald F. Mollen told the jury that Parker drove with an associate to Binghamton, forced Spears and her youngest daughter down to the basement of their brick home, told them to lie face down on the floor and fired nine bullets from a 9 mm Glock handgun into their backs and heads.

When police found their bodies, less than 30 minutes after Devin had frantically called 911 to report a man in her house, the mother and daughter were holding hands.

Mollen presented fingerprint evidence, cellular telephone records that he said virtually traced the route Parker and his alleged accomplice took from Baltimore to Binghamton, and witness testimony from neighbors and from a police officer who ended up in a brief armed standoff with two men leaving the Spears home in a hurry minutes after Devin's 911 call.

The prosecutor also offered size 10 1/2 shoes that police found in a basement closet of Parker's home on Breeders Cup Circle in Randallstown.

The shoes' tread pattern matched shoeprints left across the kitchen floor of the Spears home, down to a square of tape stuck to the bottom of the right shoe, an FBI examiner testified.

Defense attorneys suggested to jurors that their client had been framed, pointing to the DNA of an unknown person that was found in the shoes and urging them to consider the possible involvement of a man who lived with Parker until they had a falling out but who still had a key to the Parkers' Randallstown home.

`Very disappointed'

"We're obviously very disappointed with the jury verdicts, and we intend to appeal," Joseph T. Flood, one of three lawyers representing Parker, said yesterday. "We believe there was reasonable doubt."

Robert L. Williams Jr., 35, of Baltimore, who worked with Parker at a bail bond agency, is also charged with first-degree murder in the Spearses' deaths.

His trial is likely to begin in January, Broome County court clerk Sally Young said.

Prosecutors initially sought the death penalty against Parker and Williams, but New York's highest court ruled in June that a provision of the state's capital punishment law violated the state constitution.

Parker will be sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for March 4.

The verdicts

In verdicts announced about 8:40 p.m. Tuesday, the jury convicted Parker of two counts of first-degree murder for intentionally killing two witnesses, one count of first-degree murder for intentionally causing multiple deaths and one burglary charge.

"Killing witnesses is a crime that goes to the heart of the entire criminal justice system," Mollen said. "At the end of these kind of cases - really terrible murders - there's always a combination of relief that the system worked and sadness. You just don't feel pure happiness. But there is satisfaction that it's the best we could do."

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