Richard Parker Arrested for Mail bomb murders of his In-laws

Richard Parker (mugshot)
Richard Parker (mugshot)

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.

The Evil Clown of Melbourne

PENNYWISE (Via Comicvine.com)
PENNYWISE (Via Comicvine.com)

Melbourne has a problem. An armed man in a clown mask has reportedly been threatening various suburban residents. In every case noted by Sky News, “the masked man is in the passenger seat of a car while his driver gets them in close to a pedestrian.” In one case the clown exited the vehicle and menaced a woman walking down the street, only to leave when another car came along. The clown and his driver are driving either a Toyota Camry or some Mitsubishi model I’ve never heard of. Left unsaid in the Sky News report: whether he floats. Whether they all float, down there.

[Sky News Australia]

Who Stole the Lipinski Stradivarius?

I frequently think I don’t want to write about crime anymore at all, then a story like this comes along. It taps into both my interest in unusual crime news and my background in music.

Frank Almond plays violin for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. He plays the Lipinski Stradivarius, a historic and exceptionally valuable instrument. On Monday, January 27, Almond was leaving a performing venue at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee when he was tased and the violin stolen by two guys in a minivan.

Frank Almond’s 2012 Kickstarter page for a project named “A Violin’s Life: The ‘Lipinski’ Stradivarius” tells more about the instrument (as does the video from that page, which you can watch above):

The violin is named for the Polish virtuoso Karol Lipinski, who played on this instrument from approximately 1818 until his death in 1861. Lipinski was given the violin by a student of the legendary Giuseppe Tartini, the instrument’s first known owner. Known in his lifetime as a violinist, composer, concertmaster, and pedagogue, Lipinski associated with some of the most famous cultural figures of the time, including Franz Liszt, Nicolò Paganini (with whom he had a certain “rivalry”), and Robert Schumann, who so admired Lipinski that he dedicated his famous piano work “Carnaval” to him.

After Lipinski’s death the instrument eventually came into the Röentgen family, which included several violinists and the celebrated composer Julius Röntgen In the 20th century the violin changed hands several times, in 1962 arriving in the possession of the Estonian violinist Evi Liivak, who passed away in 1996.

Almond goes on to write that he had been playing the Lipinski since 2008. The Kickstarter was for a recording project (if you’ve watched the video above, it explains this) consisting of music that played a role in “the extraordinary history of this violin and its associations.” The project was successfully funded by July, 2012, and was featured on Kickstarter’s blog noting projects in the news.

Almond has kept the names of the violin’s owners anonymous. In this April, 2013 interview regarding the release of “A Violin’s Life,” Almond said the owners had “strong ties to Milwaukee.”

It’s hard to not wonder who the hell might steal a Stradivarius. What happened to Almond doesn’t sound like simple street robbery, either, though details are admittedly sparse. My immediate guess is the thieves knew exactly what they were after.

But as David Krajicek wrote in a 2004 New York Daily News article about another stolen–but later recovered–Stradivarius, the instrument’s unique properties along with its relative rarity (there are perhaps 500+ true Stradivariuses still in existence) make them “fetish theft objects, like the stolen Rembrandt painting that can never be openly sold.”

If someone were dumb enough to try and sell the Lipinski, how much could they get? Some sources say as little as a $1.5 million, as much as $3 million dollars.

Chances are the robbers who attacked Frank Almond haven’t put the Lipinski on Craigslist, then.

[WISN]

The Secrets of Allenstown

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 1.15.27 PM
Screengrab from Google Street View

Edgewood Drive is a narrow road that cuts a short path through Bear Brook Gardens Mobile Home Park in Allenstown, New Hampshire. Timestamps on the images indicate Google’s Street View car drove down Edgewood in September 2011. The car’s camera turret captured the beautiful slanting light of a dying Fall day in New England, a mellow glow that for a few moments turns everything dreamlike. Even moments in an old trailer park in a small New England town seem beautiful then.

Allenstown is about 90 miles north of where I live, but I haven’t been yet. I’ve been thinking about the place a lot off and on since I moved here. There’s a mystery there.

Screengrab of composites of the mystery victims, from New Hampshire DOJ
Screengrab of composites of the mystery victims, from New Hampshire DOJ

The mystery began in 1985. A hunter in Bear Brook State Park found a 55-gallon barrel off a snowmobile trail. The barrel was on privately-owned property within Bear Brook Gardens. Inside the barrel, wrapped in plastic, were the bodies of a woman and a little girl. The woman was white and between 23 and 33 years old. The girl was between 8 and 10 years old. Fifteen years later, in 2000, someone discovered another barrel. It contained the bodies of two girls. One was between 4 and 8 years of age, the other between 1 and 3. According to a page about the bodies on the State of New Hampshire’s DOJ website, “These two children are biologically related to the adult female and it is possible all four victims are related.”

All the victims died from blunt-force trauma and they were nude, with no personal effects.

On the blog Mystery in Allenstown NH, siblings Scott Maxwell and Ronda Randall have collected a good deal of the publicly available information in the case. They have posted images and a wealth of links and archived articles going back to the 1980s. Below are bits from some of the coverage linked from or copied into the blog.

An article published on CNN’s website in June, 2013:

Evidence indicates the victims were white, but investigators do not know skin tone or eye color. The bones were not in the best condition, given they were exposed to the elements and years of deterioration, says Williamson. They may have died as early as 1977 or 1978.

On Mystery in Allenstown, from a microfilm record of an article published in the New Hampshire Union Leader in November, 1985. The article was titled, “Area Where Bodies Found Not Isolated”:

About 150 yards from the junkyard, the trail curves right and the junkyard is lost from sight. Only trees ahead, only trees behind. The path continues to curve and drop off slightly. A 15-foot tree has blocked the path at the 230-yard mark. No more than 20 feet off to the left was the spot where the hunter discovered the plastic covered remains of a young woman aged 23 to 33 and a young girl aged 8-10. Forensic reports indicate the pair had been killed by severe blows to the head. The bark of the junkyard dog chained up barely 200 yards away echoes loudly through the woods. The bark has been incessant, no pause lasting more than a few seconds.

A little more than 100 yards further down the trail from the spot where the bodies were discovered, the first mobile home of Bear Brook Gardens can be seen through the trees. The trail ends in a sandpit at the top of a small hill overlooking the mobile home park. From Bear Brook Gardens to the junkyard on Deerfield Road, the entire path is approximately 600 yards long and only for a couple hundred yards of that would a traveler be completely hidden by the woods.

Throughout the length of the path, car doors can be heard shutting in Bear Brook Gardens and cars can be heard shuttling down Deerfield Road. The junkyard dog continues to bark as though it had something to bark at.

Also from the Union Leader, February, 2013:

The little girl aged 5 to 11 found in 1985 offers [Kim Fallon, chief forensic investigator at the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner] the most hope that someone will remember her because she may have attended school up to the fifth grade. She had double piercings in both ears, which would have been considered unusual at the time. […] The girl had fine light brown or dirty blond hair and would have stood about 4 feet 3 inches tall, Fallon said. There was some evidence of pneumonia in her left lung.

Later in that same article, Kim Fallon said, “If I had a good friend in elementary school who suddenly left, I would remember.”

That’s true. I still remember a family that briefly lived in a trailer next to our house in the southeast Nashville suburb of Antioch when I was a kid. The son was a blonde kid my age named Bobby. I recall a lot of odd details about him and his mom. She had cats-eye glasses frames, which were by then enough out-of-style to be odd, and Bobby wore heavy, square black frames that are tagged as “hipster-like” today but at that point in the 1970s, they were just old-fashioned.  I can still remember him eating dry white toast for breakfast as he waited for the bus and looking unkempt, even compared to me. I also recall that my parents seemed uncomfortable with me playing with him. It was the first and perhaps only time I perceived a kind of class bias from them–the discomfort of a poor family seeing their kid hang out with a child from even more straitened circumstances.

One day, Bobby and his mom were gone. No warning. He was at school the day before, seeming fine, then he wasn’t.

I didn’t even like the kid much–he seemed kind of humorless–but it’s been over 35 years and at least partly because of the way he seemed to vanish, I remember him as clearly as other kids I knew for much longer periods.

Whether in Canada (it was easier to travel between the US and Canada in the late 70s and 80s) or somewhere here in New England, someone still remembers the woman or one of the kids from the barrels. Someone knew them. Remembers odd facts about them. Yet they remain ciphers, gray computer recreations based on bones.

That’s the upshot of all the information collected on Mystery in Allenstown. The mystery still seems as impenetrable as when the first bodies were found in 1985.

I may contact the folks who run Mystery in Allenstown. May take a trip up the road to see what there is to see, eventually. And write more about it. When cases like this are solved, they’re almost always solved by investigators and scientists. Talk about it here, or in more depth in another publication in the future? That seems like the least I could do.