Saturday, February 18, 2012

Clewiston Triple Murder Trial - "Mistakes Made"

Hendry Jury Finds Parker Guilty Of Robbery, Culpable Negligence

LABELLE, FL. -- A twelve member jury in Hendry County, Florida found Ruby Yolanda Parker, age 36 guilty of three counts of Culpable Negligence, and guilty of Robbery in the five and one-half year old case of Florida vs. Parker. She stood accused of three charges of homicide in the murder of three Clewiston residents.

The elder brother of one of the murdered victims told the Judge there were "mistakes made in this court case."

An armed Richard Harker and girlfriend Ruby Parker visited the home of Joey and Carolyn Whitaker and Myrtle Cox, 80-year old mother of Carolyn at 231 Avenida Del Rio in Clewiston on August 15, 2006. Hours later the Whitakers and Cox were dead, at the hand of Harker.

Harker killed himself with a gunshot to the head after he and Parker went through a police barricade at the Big Cypress Reservation in a truck stolen from the Whitakers.

The state charged Parker with three counts of murder and home invasion. Her defense had been of being physically abused by Harker and held against her will in fear of her life.

After a two week trial in LaBelle, the jury this afternoon, at about 5 p.m. handed their verdict to Judge John E. Duryea, Jr.

Deputy Clerk Patti George read the verdict.

The jury started deliberations Friday night and went until midnight. reconvening at 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

Some observers thought the defense put on a good case for Parker while the state's case was weak in proving she was directly responsible for the three deaths since it was admitted by the state her boyfriend Richard Harker had actually killed all three people.

Assistant State Attorney Hamid Hunter, is was observed, did not make a convincing closing argument to the jury to support the state's evidence for a triple murder verdict. Glitches in his presentation included a power point presentation with type too small to read on some slides for which he apologized.

The three culpable negligence crimes are 2nd degree misdemeanors and robbery is a 2nd degree felony. "Points" will be accessed to determine state guidelines for sentencing Parker next week.

It may be she will be credited with "time served" on the misdemeanors, she has been in jail for five and one-half years, and up to 14 years on the robbery depending on the scoring system and the judge's discretion in sentencing under the guidelines. She has no prior criminal convictions.

Judge Duryea heard the daughter of the Whitakers, Joy Cardoza, and Joey Whitaker's elder brother Wayne Whitaker speak before the court.

Ms. Cardoza, extemely upset fought to get the words out to voice how her two young children were deprived of their grandfather and grandmother because of the senseless murders by Harker, accompanied by Parker.

Cardoza bemoaned how her family's lives have changed while the defendant will eventually get out of jail and go on with her life after just a few years in confinement.

Wayne Whitaker, the older brother of Joey Whitaker, visibly shaken recalled with pain how he remembers the tape used to suffocate the victims and how he had to identify the lifeless bodies, a sight that "will never leave my head," he said. He told the judge how he had suffered another family tragedy in 1990 when his daughter was murdered.

Whitaker expresses his opinion of the jurors decision: "I feel they mad a mistake today." "Yolanda Parker will ask God for forgiveness...she destroyed this family," he insisted. Whitaker pointed out the role of cocaine and drugs in the behavior of Parker and Harker during the preceding month before the murders saying "This is what drugs is doing to this country. We got to do something!"

Judge Duryea offered the victim's family another chance to come to the sentencing hearing and speak further of the impact of the crimes on them if they wished. Duryea declined to allow Parker to post a bond amount  to get out of jail, even though her conviction is now on lessor charges than murder the state has charged her for. He said she will remain in custody pending the sentencing hearing.

Sentencing will be held on Friday, February 24th at 8:30 a.m. at the LaBelle Courthouse.

(Video: The jury's verdict received by Judge Duryea and read by Deputy Clerk, sentencing date announced)

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