- Lauren Pack Staff Writer
The owners of a home where a Hamilton firefighter died in an arson fire declined to speak with insurance representatives under oath about their submitted insurance claim, according to court documents obtained exclusively by the Journal-News.
Lester Parker was indicted Monday by a Butler County grand jury for aggravated arson and murder in the death of Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman.
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 Dec. 28, 2015, blaze.
Parker, 66, and his wife, Bertha, submitted insurance claims for the burned home to Cincinnati Insurance Company of Fairfield, but 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.
A request was made by the insurance company for the couple to provide detailed cell phone records, which didn’t happen, according to court documents.
An April 13 examination under other was cancelled by the insurance company at the request of Lester Parker after the death of his brother and rescheduled for April 25, according to court documents.
Attorney Richard Hyde contacted Cincinnati Insurance Company on April 15 to say he was representing the Parkers and needed time to consult with them.
In a letter dated May 27, Hyde informed the insurance company that “the Parkers were exercising their rights under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution to remain silent and would not be submitting to any examinations in this matter…” according to court documents.
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.
Parker was arrested about 12:40 p.m. Monday at his new residence, just two doors down from the charred remains of the home that burned last December.
He appeared frail in an orange Butler County Jail jumpsuit, handcuffed and shackled Tuesday morning in court for arraignment.
Wolterman’s family filled the courtroom, including his widow Bre, who was sitting in the front row, just a few feet from Parker. About 10 Hamilton firefighters were also in attendance in a show of support for the Wolterman family.
Defense attorney Richard Hyde entered a not guilty plea on Parker’s behalf.
“I ask for a reasonable bond,” Hyde said to Judge Michael Oster, noting Parker is a life-long resident of Hamilton, a former Marine and has health issues.
Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser requested a substantial bond, saying he wanted to ensure Parker showed up for court.
After acknowledging one of the charges Parker faces is murder, Oster set a $500,000 bond. Parker is scheduled to be back in court Monday for a pre-trial hearing.
Gmoser declined any comment after Tuesday’s hearing, including if any other arrests are possible.
Hamilton Police Chief Craig Bucheit said Monday he believes more people will be arrested in connection with the deadly crime.
“This case is still an active investigation … and I am confident this will not be the last arrest,” Bucheit said, adding that the department will continue to honor its pledge to deliver justice for Wolterman and his family.
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.
Hyde also declined comment after the arraignment, but said Parker has always maintained his innocence.
Parker told the Journal-News last year he was not sure if he and his wife would return to the home after the tragedy that occurred there.
“The house can be replaced, but the firefighter’s life cannot,” he told the Journal-News, adding that he and his wife were in Las Vegas celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary and left just before the fire broke out.