A teenager who prosecutors say killed a gay black man in a rage when the victim threatened to reveal their sexual relationship pleaded guilty today to first-degree murder.
David Allen Parker, 18, was sentenced to life in prison with mercy, which means he will be eligible for parole in 15 years.
Parker, of Grant Town, had been scheduled to stand trial next week in the death of Arthur "J.R." Warren, a 26-year-old neighbor who was beaten, stomped, kicked with steel-toed boots, then run over four times with a Camaro.
Warren died of massive injuries July 4, 2000, in a gravel pullout alongside a road in Grant Town.
In exchange for Parker's plea, a second count of conspiracy to commit a felony was dismissed. That count carried a possible sentence of five years in prison.
Mercy for Testimony
Parker agreed to testify against Jared Wilson, whose trial is scheduled for Aug. 27 in Wheeling.
Parker and Wilson, both 17 at the time, were arrested the day of Warren's murder.
If convicted, Wilson, of Mannington, faces life in prison without parole.
Jason Shoemaker, Parker's 15-year-old cousin and a witness to the beating, reported the episode to his mother, who called police. Shoemaker was prosecuted as a juvenile for helping the older teens dispose of evidence after the murder.
Parker had been drinking beer, huffing gasoline and snorting tranquilizers the night of July 3-4. He was angry with Warren, who had apparently told others about their sexual relationship.
When Warren came to the vacant house that Parker and Wilson were painting, the boys took $20 from him, then began arguing over the sexual gossip.
In a statement to police, Wilson blamed Parker for initiating the attack and said he, too, would have been beaten if he hadn't taken part.
‘I Take Full Responsibility’
During the investigation, Parker told a psychologist that Warren had sexually abused him since he was 12. Parker said Warren gave him drugs and alcohol before most of the 30 encounters they had.
Court documents also indicate that Parker says Shoemaker egged him on about confronting Warren.
However, in a report for the court, Dr. William Fremouw concluded Parker knew what he was doing and was capable of standing trial. The teen's intoxication didn't stop him from trying to disguise the beating as a hit-and-run, he said.
At today's hearing, Parker apologized to the Warren family.
"If by any means I could change it, I would. I hope God comforts you and your loss and eases the pain. I don't know what else to say, but I'm sorry," Parker said.
To Marion County Circuit Judge David Janes, he said, "I take full responsibility for my actions. I do not try to blame anyone or anything else for what I have done. The amount of time I get would never replace the loss, but hopefully it will ease the loss I have caused his family."
A Family's Torment
Before Parker was sentenced, J.R. Warren's mother, Brenda Warren, read a letter from the victim's brother and poems written by his sister.
She told Parker she is tormented by thoughts of her son's suffering and not knowing how long he lay alongside the road before he died.
"Not only has David Parker taken the life of our son … not only did he kill him in such a vicious manner, but he went on to try to slander his name."
She said her son had a heart of gold and would do anything for anybody. He was trusting and unafraid of people, even when he should have been afraid, she said.