Trial date set for man accused in Hamilton firefighter’s death

Lester Parker, with his attorney David Washington, has pleaded not guilty in the death of Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman. Parker, 66, is the owner of the Pater Avenue home where Wolterman died last December in an arson. He is charged with murder and aggravated arson. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

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Lester Parker, with his attorney David Washington, has pleaded not guilty in the death of Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman. Parker, 66, is the owner of the Pater Avenue home where Wolterman died last December in an arson. He is charged with murder and aggravated arson. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

A “real challenge” of a year for the Hamilton fire department will continue into 2017.

A February trial date has been set for Lester Parker, who is charged with murder and aggravated arson in the death of Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman.

Parker, the owner of the Pater Avenue home where Wolterman died last December in an arson, is being held in Warren County Jail on $500,000 bond.

On Thursday, Butler County Common Pleas Judge Gregory Stephens set a trial date of Feb. 21 for Parker.

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Parker’s new attorney, David Washington, asked Stephens to reduce Parker’s bond, saying the 66-year-old wasn’t a flight risk, has no criminal history and was not a danger to his community.

Stephens noted that Parker flew to Las Vegas for five days just hours after his house caught fire, and even if he fled just 30 miles south to Kentucky, it could take some time before he was captured.

Saying he wasn’t “taking any chances,” Stephens kept the bond at $500,000.

MORE: Owners of home where arson occurred refused to discuss insurance claim

Washington also expressed concerns about the timing of the trial, noting he had just recently been appointed Parker’s attorney.

He said the case presents “many complicated issues” because of the extensive evidence and experts he needs to interview.

Earlier this month, Parker told the judge that he did not have the money to retain an attorney and requested a public defender be appointed.

The Butler County courtroom was packed Thursday afternoon with about 20 Hamilton firefighters and members of Wolterman’s family. Tony Harris, president of Hamilton Fire Union Local 20, said firefighters will be present throughout the court hearing to support Wolterman’s family.

When TV camera tried to film Bre Wolterman sitting in the courtroom Thursday, three Hamilton firefighters moved over and stood in front of her.

Harris said the firefighters are “anxious to get everything moving forward.”

He also said dealing with Wolterman’s death and the pending investigations have taken their toll on the firefighters.

“We still see guys having troubles,” Harris said outside the courtroom. “We have guys who were there that night who struggle and we have people who weren’t there struggle. It’s going to be a challenge over the next few weeks.”

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