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Prosecutor: Hamilton man planned to burn home for insurance money

Published: Tuesday, November 07, 2017 @ 10:52 AM
Updated: Tuesday, November 07, 2017 @ 6:03 PM

Opening statements in Hamilton arson trial

In November 2015, Lester Parker and his wife Bertha were “underwater” financially, behind in mortgage payments and living off a limited income from flea market sales, Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser told a jury Tuesday during opening statements.

That is when Parker allegedly hatched a plan to burn his house down for insurance money, and his nephew agreed to help for payment in pills, Gmoser said.

Parker, 67, and his nephew, William “Billy” Tucker, 46, are both charged with arson and murder in the fire at the Pater Avenue residence that killed Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman on Dec. 28, 2015.

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The jury of five women and seven men viewed the residence Tuesday before opening statements began in the trial in Butler County Common Pleas Court.

“This was supposed to be a simple insurance job,” Gmoser said. “They didn’t intend for Patrick Wolterman to get killed, they just didn’t give it any thought.”

The prosecutor said Parker planned a trip to Las Vegas that he could not afford and his daughters were going to take him to the airport on the afternoon of Dec. 27.

In the weeks leading up to that date, Parker took pictures of items in his house and even moved out some items, including pictures and a handcrafted log cabin decoration that he held dear, Gmoser told the jury.

Before flying to Vegas, Parker told one of his daughters that if anything happened the important papers about the house were in the garage.

Gmoser said Tucker, Parker’s nephew, agreed to light the fire in exchange for pills that Parker’s daughter will testify were kept in the second floor of the house.

Tucker was “desperate” to get a ride from Richmond, Ky., to Hamilton on Dec. 28, 2015, and enlisted a former girlfriend and another woman in exchange for pills, Gmoser said during opening statements.

MORE: Owners of home where Hamilton firefighter died refused to discuss insurance claim

The women dropped Tucker off early on Dec. 28, 2015, at the intersection of Pater Avenue and Grand Boulevard. Gmoser said a Hamilton Police license plate reader will verify the car was at the intersection during the time frame of the fire.

When Tucker returned minutes later, “He is out of breath and he is carrying his bag, he is carrying a gas can and has pills,” Gmoser told the jury.

The prosecutor said when Tucker popped the clasp of the lock in the basement of the Pater Avenue residence he found a “gas can and pills waiting for him.”

Tucker then poured gas on “stuff” and ran, Gmoser said.

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David Washington, Parker’s defense attorney called the prosecution’s opening statements a “fantastic story” that was without proof and questioned the credibility of witnesses that he said are “pill heads and dope thieves.”

“Lester Parker had nothing to do with any fire at his house,” Washington said.

Tucker’s defense attorney, Tamara Sack, said her client has an alibi for the time of the fire. And while he he did come to Hamilton on Dec. 28, 2015, she said, he went to a different house to get pills.

“Coincidences galore,” said Sack about the prosecution’s case.

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Two neighbors of Lester and Bertha Parker, along with several firefighters, were called to the stand Tuesday, including Hamilton Fire Lt. Ben Adams, who found Wolterman after he fell into the basement of the home while fighting the blaze.

Adams said he saw firefighters approach 1310 Pater Avenue.

“It changed from heavy smoke to heavy fire,” Adams said. One of the firefighters was pushed back on the front porch by a wall of fire.

Adams said he learned Wolterman was still in the house.

He and another firefighter were able to locate Wolterman through the squelching of his personal alarm. He was unconscious and his face mask had been knocked off, he testified.

Firefighters pulled Wolterman from the basement, Adams said.

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A neighbor, Milford Radin, said he suffered from glaucoma and could not point out his longtime friend Lester Parker at the defense table, but remembered talking to him the night of the fire.

When the fire broke out, he called Parker at the request of police, he said.

“He said, ‘didn’t I tell you I was leaving for Las Vegas?” Radin said.

Radin said Parker usually told him when he was going to be away from home.

He added that Parker told him to take care of his house, but did not indicate he was rushing home.

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Jennifer Lopez celebrates twins Max and Emme’s 10th birthday

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 1:17 PM

What You Need To Know About Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony’s twins are growing up so fast!

Max and Emme celebrated their 10th birthday on Feb. 22, and Lopez was right there to celebrate with her kids, sharing multiple posts on Instagram. 

>> Read more trending news 

Sharing a video of her kids’ -- whom she affectionately calls her coconuts -- cutest moments throughout the years, Lopez wrote, “It's hard to get my head around the fact that it's been 10 years since these two forces of nature came into my world and changed my life forever... you healed my soul and rejuvenated my existence... you taught me about love and life and myself in a way I never imagined... and I am forever in love with those beautiful faces...”

The proud mother shared two other tributes to her children in their own posts on Instagram with individual heartfelt messages.

Jennifer Lopez (C) and son Maximilian David Muniz (L) and daughter Emme Maribel Muniz (R) pictured in 2015. The musician's twins with ex-husband Marc Anthony turned 10 in Feb. 2018.(Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

“Max you are my heart, my love and my light,” Lopez wrote to her son. “You brighten up every day for me with your kindness and caring, your love and awareness… your energy is unmatched, your sense of humor makes everyone around you laugh, and I marvel at your depth of understanding of people and the world… my old soul, my beautiful boy, Happy 10th Birthday I know you are getting so big but you will always be my precious coconut.”

For her daughter, Lopez celebrated Emme’s “independence and strength,” writing, “Emme you are my soul, my inner child personified the most joyful deep and sensitive human being I have ever met…and I adore everything about you…your artistry, your independence, your strength and your sensitive spirit… Happy 10th Birthday my marshmallow princess…I know you’re growing up so much but you will always be my precious coconut.”

Proud dad Marc Anthony reposted his former wife’s video tribute to Max and Emme on his Instagram page Feb. 22.

According to TMZ, Lopez ceebrated her twin’s milestone birthday Thursday at the Sugar Factory in Las Vegas. From 5 p.m. - 9 p.m., 30 guests celebrated with custom cakes for each child. 

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Heavy showers expected this weekend; Flood Watch in effect

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 4:04 AM
Updated: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 1:22 PM

Rain showers continue at times today in the Dayton area, and into parts of the weekend.

Flood Watch is in effect for Montgomery, Preble, Clark, Greene, Butler, Warren and Clinton counties until Sunday morning.

QUICK-LOOK FORECAST

  • A stray shower or two expected today
  • Heavy showers and some thunderstorms possible Saturday
  • Dry start to next week

>> WHIO Doppler 7 Interactive Radar

DETAILED FORECAST

Today: A few showers will pass by at times today, but we are expecting more breaks in the rain this afternoon. It'll be a cloudy and dreary day with highs in the lower 60s.

>> County-by-County Weather

Saturday: More widespread rain will push back in by the early morning. Rivers, creeks and streams will continue to see some minor flooding. Roads will stay soaked. Highs will be in the low to mid 50s during the day. It will be breezy at times for the afternoon. At night, a cold front will move into the Miami Valley. Downpours and thunderstorms will be possible overnight. Strong wind gusts will also develop, which could lead to tree damage. Temperatures will climb after midnight.

>> Flooding: Know your risks

Sunday: Morning showers and storms will move east quickly before sunrise. Temperatures will drop back into the 40s as some sunshine returns for the afternoon. Highs will push to the mid to upper 50s. Winds will stay gusty all day between 30 and 40 MPH. Winds, combined with a saturated ground, could lead to tree damage. It will be dry at night.

Monday: It will be a nice start to the week. There will be sunshine for the afternoon with temperatures warmer than normal in the low 50s.

Tuesday: It will be another nice day and a chance for rivers, creeks and streams to recede. Highs will be in the mid-50s with sun and clouds.

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Police: No threat today at Fenwick High School

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 9:34 AM
Updated: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 1:15 PM


            Bishop Fenwick High School was on a “soft lockdown” this morning, meaning classes were conducted but no one was allowed to enter or leave the school, officials said. ED RICHTER/STAFF
Bishop Fenwick High School was on a “soft lockdown” this morning, meaning classes were conducted but no one was allowed to enter or leave the school, officials said. ED RICHTER/STAFF

UPDATE @1:15 P.M.:

There was no threat at Fenwick High School this morning, Middletown police have determined.

A former student entered the Ohio 122 school building to visit former teachers and was walking through the school at some point by himself, said Middletown Maj. David Birk.

“Some people who were unfamiliar with the former student became suspicious, but there was not threat at all,” Birk said.

INITIAL REPORT:

A Middletown high school is on lockdown this morning.

A notice from Bishop Fenwick High School this morning states: “Bishop Fenwick High School is currently on a ‘soft lockdown.’ This means that teaching continues in the building, but no one will be permitted in or out of the building until the lockdown is lifted. Everyone is safe in the building.”

Middletown Maj. David Birk said a student was acting suspiciously and the school called police. As a precaution the school was placed on lockdown. Birk said officers are on scene investigating and talking with those involved.

The school is asking for people to not call the school so phone lines can remain open.

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Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates to plead guilty in Mueller investigation

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 12:39 PM
Updated: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 12:39 PM

What You Need To Know: Rick Gates

Rick Gates, a former aide in President Donald Trump's campaign, plans to plead guilty to charges in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, according to multiple reports.

READ MORE: Paul Manafort, Rick Gates face new charges: report | Mueller investigation: Lawyer pleads guilty to lying to investigators in Russia probeWho is Rick Gates and why was he indicted by Robert Mueller?Who is Paul Manafort, the man indicted in Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation?What are Paul Manafort and Rick Gates charged with?MORE

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