The love of a parent for a child can be an extraordinarily powerful force.
Robyn and Richard Parnell learned this week that their 18-year-old son Jacob Jett allegedly confessed to hiring hit men to kill them. But in an exclusive interview with ABC News in their Independence, Mo., home Thursday, all they could talk about was how much they love their boy.
The Parnells said they desperately want to spare their son the cost of paying for this alleged Shakespearean betrayal for the rest of his life.
"We're going to support him no matter what," said Richard Parnell. "We want to get our son back into this house and love him. That's my goal. I raised this kid."
"I'm not saying he hasn't done something wrong or stupid. But he's a young man, and at that age, they want to be your kid and they want to be their own man. And that's a difficult process for him, and for us," he said.
"It could have been a horrible lapse in judgment," said his wife, Robyn. "But a temporary one, I know."
"We still love him so much."
The plot as outlined by police in court filings was cruel and elaborate.
Last month, Jett allegedly gave two would-be killers a couple of .22-caliber pistols and a .38-caliber pistol he'd taken from his father's gun collection, $260 in cash, alarm codes for the home, a debit card and a layout of the house.
Jett and classmate Joseph Garcia, 17, who allegedly introduced Jett to the would-be hit men, are charged with second-degree attempted murder and armed criminal action. The former carries a prison sentence of five to 15 years, the latter a sentence of three years to life in prison. Both are still in prison, being held on $250,000 bonds.
According to court documents, Jett "wanted his parents killed that afternoon."
"This was absolutely for real," Jackson County prosecutor Jim Kanatzar said in an interview.
Prosecutors say Russell Anderson, 23, who was being held at the Clay County jail on an unrelated probation violation, volunteered to police last week that he and Nicholas E. Dobbins, 19, had been contracted to kill the Parnells, but got cold feet at the last minute.
Kanatzar declined to explain why neither Anderson nor Dobbins had been charged in the case, but insisted neither had been given promises of immunity for their testimony.
Clay County jail officials would not make Anderson available for a telephone interview. Dobbins could not be reached for comment and a woman who answered the phone at Garcia's home declined comment.
The Parnells said police told them their son signed a nine-page confession, and they seem ready to believe that at least parts of the story police told them may be accurate.
"They said our son hired hit men to kill us," Richard said. "They said he hasn't asked for a lawyer and hasn't shown any remorse. I have taught him if you do something wrong don't try and squirm out of it, admit [it] and take your punishment."
He paused then, and stared out the kitchen window in silence for a moment as his wife picked up the conversation.
"Whenever we'd catch him doing something wrong, he'd always say, 'yes, I did it. Are you going to ground me?' He just takes it, he doesn't argue, doesn't complain, and takes his punishment. He's always been that way since he was a tiny child," Robyn said, then paused herself, as the weight of what she'd just said seemed to sink in.