Richard Parker, age 49, was arrested Thursday in Tennessee and charged with the mail bomb homicide of his father and mother-in-law, Jon and Marion Setzer.
On Monday a package exploded at the Setzers’ Wilson County, TN home. Jon died at the scene and Marion Setzer passed away Wednesday night. The Tennesseean (linked above) said Richard was “charged with two counts of felony first degree murder and two counts of premeditated murder on Thursday[…].”
I found the first news reports about the murder intriguing. Mail bombings are rare and could happen for any reason, from personal cause to domestic terrorism. I kept track of the story from Monday on, tweeting links that caught my interest.
Imagine how much more interesting the story became when I saw Richard Parker’s mugshot and realized I knew him.
My mom was good friends with Richard’s mother, Sarah Lee Parker. News reports might call her “Sarah” or “Mrs. Parker” but she was Sarah Lee in our home. They lived a mile down the road. Richard’s father was a non-entity to me but he and his sister Fay had come to my sister Rhonda’s birthday parties. I knew he had an older brother named George who had dark hair and was tall. The Parkers were welcome in our home and vice versa.
I never liked going to their house. Sarah Lee made ceramic figures and (I think, my memory’s fuzzy here) cups and dishes and displayed them around the house. Richard, 3 years older than me, had a cluttered room at the end of an interior hall. He had strange things like large ball bearings and boomerangs. He wasn’t a bullying playmate, though he was older, taller and stronger. He was a sly, calculating, manipulative playmate. As soon as I was old enough to assert myself to my mom, I said I didn’t want to play with Richard or go to their house anymore.
In her email confirming to me that this was the Richard Parker I’d known as a kid, my mom wrote:
This is definitely [that] Richard Parker. I remember him well. Rhonda said, “I remember him being strange…”
My sister also recalled that Richard played with dolls and “He gave her one, one time and told her to give it to you.”
The part about the doll isn’t strange to me. It even seems to contradict Richard’s arrest for a double homicide. Unless, that is, one views Richard Parker the way I have since I was 10 or so. He was the first person I ever met whom I realized was more messed up than I could explain to myself.
Since I established myself writing about crime, an old and personal connection to a murder suspect may present an ideal opportunity to write about the case.
There’s a little more to the story, but it’d only be distant background as it relates to the murders of Richard’s in-laws. I think I’ll sleep on it before I decide about pitching it to someone as a piece.