Hamilton homeowner, nephew take stand in firefighter murder trial

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Lester Parker takes the stand in Hamilton arson trial

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Hamilton homeowner Lester Parker and his nephew William “Billy” Tucker, took the stand Monday in their own defense in the arson and murder trial for the 2015 death of Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman.

Parker, 68, and 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.

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Prosecutors say Parker was “under water” financially in the fall of 2015 and hatched a plan to set the house on fire for insurance money. Tucker agreed to light the fire in exchange for pain pills, according to prosecutors.

Parker and his wife, Bertha, left Hamilton on the afternoon of Dec. 27, 2015, and were in Las Vegas when fire consumed the residence at 1310 Pater Avenue during the early morning hours of Dec. 28.

Before leaving, Parker removed items he held dear from the house to the garage in anticipation of the fire, according to prosecutors. During trial, Parker’s daughter, Cheryl Sullivan, testified that she noticed the items had been removed from the when she and her husband came to to give them a ride to the airport.

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Parker, on Monday, said his daughter as well as her husband lied.

“Probably because you told him to, like you told everyone else to,” Parker said to Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser during cross examination when asked why the couple would have lied during their testimony.

Parker said he was using the garage as an office in December 2015, but moved the items back into the house so his other daughter, Melissa Lainhart-Jones, could move in. On Christmas Eve 2015, Parker said he moved the items back into garage because he needed room for a family gathering.

The actions had nothing to do with anticipation of the fire, he said.

MORE: Daughter of man on trial in Hamilton firefighter death testifies about missing items

When defense attorney David Washington asked Parker about his financial situation in December 2015, he said he was behind a couple payments behind, but “not in dire straits.”

Washington asked Parker if he set fire to his house

“No,” he answered.

Did you hire someone else to set fire to your house?” Washington asked Parker.

“Absolutely not,” was Parker’s answer.

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Parker said he was never told what caused the fire at 1310 Pater.

“It could have been anything,” Parker said.

When Gmoser pointed to calls Parker placed from Las Vegas to his brother’s car repair shop in Richmond, Ky., right after the fire trying to find his nephew, he said he was looking for Tucker to help him with his damaged home.

“Well, I was going to get him to come secure the house for me after it caught fire,” Parker said.

MORE: Burglar alarm sent police to Hamilton home where firefighter died

Tucker also took the stand telling the jury he came to Hamilton on the night of Dec. 27, 2015, to meet up with his cousin Melissa Lainhart-Jones to buy some pills. He was also meeting up with his former girlfriend Kim Brooks who arranged a ride, but he didn’t want his Kentucky girlfriend to find out, Tucker said during testimony.

On that cold night, Tucker said he was going to meet with Lainhart-Jones, who he said has been “playing” investigators for months, get the pills then spend a few days with Brooks selling the pills in Hamilton.

“It was arranged, Melissa said it had to be after midnight.” Tucker said. “I was to walk up Allstatter (Avenue) and she would come out and meet me.”

Tucker said he did not go to the Pater Avenue home and had not seen his uncle for more than a year before the fire.

He said Courtney Basinger, who drove with Brooks to pick him up, was so under the influence of drugs that night that he convinced her to pull over and he drove into Hamilton.

Tucker said he didn’t have much luck selling the pills in Hamilton and after a fight with Brooks, he returned to Kentucky.

Weeks later when Hamilton police came to interview him at the Blue Moon Bar in Richmond, Gmoser pointed out Tucker lied, telling them he was in Richmond on the night of the fire.

“It was a big mistake,” Tucker said. “I am telling the truth now.”

Then Gmoser pointed out Tucker didn’t tell his defense attorney about the last alibi of meeting up with Lainhart-Jones until this year.

The prosecutor also questioned Tucker’s ability to tell the truth, noting several lies he told to both girlfriends both through phone calls and social media messages.

“It’s not against the law to lie to a woman,” Tucker said.

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