Parker, Tucker sentenced to life in murder trial of firefighter

Parker, Tucker sentenced to life in murder trial of firefighter

UPDATE@1:30 p.m.:

Outside the courtroom after the guilty verdict for Lester Parker and William Tucker was read there were more tears and plenty of hugging.

An emotional Hamilton Fire Chief Steve Dawson thanked the prosecutors and Hamilton police for their work in the case and apprehension of culprits.

“I think the important thing for us to remember at this time is Patrick Wolterman,” Dawson said. “He was a very fine young man. A very brave young man and we lost him. Also we want to remember to the Wolterman family … remember the pain they suffered on account of this crime.”

The Wolterman family, in a statement read by Hamilton Fire Capt Brian Ruhl, also praised and thanked the investigation efforts.

“They want to also thank the community, family and friends for your love and support,” Ruhl said. “We miss and love Patrick, but we are glad this chapter has come to an end with a good outcome, justice for Patrick.”

Sgt. Matt Fishwick, the Hamilton detective who spent a year investigating the case and who sat with the prosecution during the trial, had a short comment and a smile.

“Yeehaw, ” Fishwick said. “They got the right answer today.”

UPDATE@10:23 a.m. Wednesday

Lester Parker and William Tucker were sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years Judge Greg Stephens announced this morning in Butler County court.

They were found guilty of murder and arson in the death of Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman.

All 12 jurors answered “yes” when asked if they agreed with the verdict.

Parker’s attorney David Washington said: “It’s a sad day, but we respect the process.”

Tucker’s attorney Tamara Sack said: “We respect the verdict. It wasn’t an easy case by any means.”

Wolterman’s widow Bre Wolterman said: “These two men robbed me of my whole future. None of us had a choice in this. They had a choice in this.”

Wolterman’s mother said: “While we were planning on a funeral, they were gambling in Las Vegas.”

Judge Stephens said: “This does shake the entire city when something like this happens.”

UPDATE@10:07 a.m. Wednesday:

Lester Parker and William Tucker were found guilty of murder and arson this morning.

Several family members of Parker and Tucker and the Hamilton firefighter were crying in the courtroom.

UPDATE@10:05 a.m. Wednesday:

Lester Parker was found guilty of murder and arson this morning.

UPDATE@9:50 a.m. Wednesday

A verdict has been reached in the Lester Parker/William Tucker murder, arson trial. The uncle and nephew are charged in the the 2015 death of Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman.

The jury is walking into the courtroom at 10 a.m.

This story will be updated when the verdict is announced.

UPDATE@8:45 a.m. Wednesday:

Jurors have begun deliberations this morning in the Lester Parker/William Tucker murder, arson trial. The uncle and nephew are charged in the the 2015 death of Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman.

UPDATE @ 5:45 p.m.:

The jury deliberated for about an hour this evening after getting the case at 4:15 p.m.

Deliberations will continue Wednesday in the Lester Parker/William Tucker murder, arson trial.

INITIAL STORY:

After seven days of testimony, including both defendants, closing arguments were made Tuesday morning in the trial of two men charged with arson and murder for the 2015 death of Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman.

Lester Parker, 68, and his nephew,William Tucker, 46, of Richmond, Ky., are charged with arson and murder in the fire at Parker’s Pater Avenue home that killed Wolterman on Dec. 28, 2015.

Both men denied any involvement in the deadly fire when they testified Monday in their own defense.

Tucker admitted to being in Hamilton during the early morning hours when the fire occurred, but said he came to get pain pills from one of Parker’s daughtersand then “peddle” them in Hamilton to make cash. He also admitted to lying to police when they first questioned him about his whereabouts that day by saying he was in Richmond, Ky.

Parker testified he moved items from his house to his garage to make room for a family gathering, not as the prosecution has said, to spare them from the fire.

He denied conspiring to set his house on fire and said he has never been told exactly what caused the blaze.

Both men said witnesses, including relatives, lied during testimony.

During closing arguments, Assistant Butler County Prosecutor David Kash told the jury they could make inferences from text messages and testimony to conclude Parker and Tucker are guilty of murder and arson.

He meticulously went over social media messages, phone records and even a Hamilton police license plate reader that caught the image of the car that a Hamilton woman used to drive Tucker to the city on the morning of the fire.

“Clearly this is a case of circumstantial evidence,” Kash said, telling the jury to “take facts you know and make reasonable inference,”

Kash told the jury that the state is not arguing Parker and Tucker purposely killed Wolterman, but rather conspired to commit arson that resulted in Wolterman’s death.

“If someone acts in partnership with the person who actually committed the crime, he is just as guilty,” Kash said.

Parker was in Las Vegas celebrating his 45th wedding anniversary at the time of the fire.

Kash said a phone call placed to Parker from Richmond, Ky., on Dec. 20 marked when the arson fire was planned. He also pointed to a text message Tucker sent to a girlfriend at 3:30 a.m. on Dec. 28, 2015, saying, “done with the job.”

“The data starts to tighten the noose,” Kash told the jury.

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser pointed to what he called a “silver bullet” during final closing arguments — a call placed from a phone registered to Tucker’s Kentucky girlfriend to Parker’s house on Dec. 27, 2015.

Parker previously testified he had not talked to Tucker in more than one year before the fire.

“That is the call from Tucker checking in to find out if the deal is still on,” Gmoser said.

“Is that solid evidence of arson and murder?” Parker’s defense attorney, David Washington, asked the jury, adding it is not their job to connect the dots for the prosecution.

Washington said there was no evidence presented about what was said in the phone conversation on Dec. 20 or who was talking.

Washington reiterated to the jury what he told them in opening statements — that the witnesses would be “pill heads and dope fiends.”

Washington pointed to Melissa Lainhart-Jones, Parker’s daughter who admitted to stealing drugs from her father and has been living for weeks in a hotel room paid for by the city of Hamilton.

The defense attorney called Wolterman a hero, but said there is no evidence that Parker conspired to set the fire.

“You look out there and see those faces and those uniforms and you want to do something,” Washington said, noting this trial is not about vengeance.

The courtroom has been packed each day with firefighters in dress uniform.

But he urged the jury not to be swayed and to look for the evidence.

“Some of the hardest things to do are the right things to do,” Washington said. “Where is the evidence?”

Tamara Sack, Tucker’s defense attorney, also told the jury her client is not guilty, pointing to conflicting statements not only of witnesses who drove him to Hamilton but firefighters who gave conflicting testimony about the status of the cellar door at the Pater Avenue house after the fire.

While both women in the car had different versions of where Tucker went when they drove from Kentucky to Hamilton, both said he did not smell of gas when he got back in the vehicle.

“How do you light a fire in a closed environment and not show it on your person?” Sack asked the jury.

Sack also pointed to Google map coordinates that show the car Tucker came to Hamilton in was parked on Grand Avenue for only 11 minutes. She questioned if it was time enough for him to walk to Pater Avenue, break into the house and light the blaze.

The defense attorney also called into the question the motivation for Tucker to commit the crime.

“Burn a house down for pills, that you are lucky you can sell. Come on now. It just doesn’t make sense,” Sack said.

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