2 men accused in firefighter’s death aren’t in Butler County Jail

Uncle and nephew co-defendants facing charges for allegedly causing a fire that killed a Hamilton firefighter will both eventually be in Butler County courtrooms, but they will likely never be housed in the Butler County Jail.

Lester Parker, 66, owner of the Pater Avenue house where firefighter Patrick Wolterman died in December 2015, is charged with two counts of aggravated arson and one count of murder.

His nephew, William "Billy" Tucker Jr., is awaiting an extradition hearing next week on the same charges. He was indicted by a Butler County grand jury on Jan. 6 and arrested a few hours later Richmond, Ky.

When Tucker, 46, does return to Ohio to stand trial, he will likely be behind bars in a neighboring county, just as his uncle is housed in the Warren County Jail.

“Lester Parker has medical issues and many of our jail medical staff are Hamilton paramedics,” Butler County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer said. “We don’t want anyone to be able to claim any impropriety given the nature of the case.”

Dwyer said there will likely be the same issue when Tucker returns for trial.

“We will likely place him outside our jail,” Dwyer said. “But not in the Warren County Jail.”

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

Tucker is currently being held in Madison County Detention Center on a $1 million bond. Parker’s bond was set at $500,000 at his arraignment last month.

Defense attorney David Washington III declined comment about Parker’s case, stating he has not yet seen any of the evidence. Parker pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said if Tucker does not formally waive extradition during next week’s hearing, he will request a governor’s warrant to have him transported to Ohio.

Gmoser said there is no doubt that Parker was in Las Vegas at the time of the fire on Dec. 28, 2015. Evidence in the case will show Tucker as the person who started the fire, he said.

The murder charge carries a prison term of 15 years to life and a $15,000 fine. The aggravated arson charge carries a maximum prison term of 11 years and a $20,000 fine, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Wolterman fell through the first floor of Parker’s Pater Avenue home while fighting a fire that was later ruled an arson. Wolterman died from injuries he sustained battling the blaze.

Two weeks after the fatal fire, Lester Parker told the Journal-News, "My wife won't live there again, and I don't blame her after the firefighter was killed there."

Parker said he sent flowers to Wolterman’s funeral, but did not reach out to the family.

The Parkers left their home headed to Las Vegas to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary just hours before the fire started around 1 a.m. Lester Parker told the Journal-News he had no idea what happened the night of the fire or if someone could have broken into the house.

A police officer responded to the home that day because an ADT security alarm had been activated, and a cellar door in the house was reportedly open when police and firefighters arrived and found heavy black smoke.

“I had my house locked up tight, and there was nothing left on,” Lester Parker said. The Parkers did return to the neighborhood and moved into a house just two doors down from the burned out residence.

Parker and his wife, Bertha, submitted insurance claims for the burned home to Cincinnati Insurance Company of Fairfield, but they declined to cooperate with the process when the company notified the couple that it was “exercising its right under the policy to conduct an examination under oath,” according to court documents obtained by the Journal-News.

In July, Butler County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer McElfresh signed a judgment in favor of Cincinnati Insurance Company, relieving it from paying out any coverage or indemnity to the Parkers for the house at 1310 Pater Ave.

About the Author