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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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Truck fatally hits two children at mud bogging event, officials say

Published: Sunday, June 17, 2018 @ 5:05 PM

Two children were fatally hit at a mud bogging event Sunday in Georgia. (Photo: Pixabay)
Two children were fatally hit at a mud bogging event Sunday in Georgia. (Photo: Pixabay)

Two children, 15 and 10 years old, were hit and killed at a mudding event in Middle Georgia when a driver lost control of his truck due to a mechanical failure, the Georgia State Patrol said.

>> Read more trending news

An 11-year-old was hit and injured in the incident Saturday night at the South Creek Mud Boggin’ in Milledgeville, according to the GSP.

Shortly before 7 p.m., the driver of a 1988 Chevrolet S10 was completing his run through the mud pit and preparing to exit, GSP spokeswoman Franka Young said.

“The throttle of the vehicle stuck, the driver was unable to slow down, and he lost control of his vehicle as he exited the mud pit,” she said.

“The vehicle traveled through a cabled area and struck three small children before it overturned and came to an uncontrolled stop.”

The 11-year-old was flown to a medical facility in Jacksonville, Florida. The others were pronounced dead at the scene.

No identities have been released. The GSP is conducting an investigation.

“Our Mud Boggin’ family is heartbroken,” event officials said on Facebook. “There are no words that can ever be said to even begin to express our sorrow.”

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Dangerous heat to last into the new week

Published: Sunday, June 17, 2018 @ 8:03 AM
Updated: Sunday, June 17, 2018 @ 4:46 PM



Marshall Gorby
(Marshall Gorby)


It will be quite hot and humid with mostly sunny skies. Temperatures will reach near 93 degrees, according to Storm Center 7 Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell. The heat index will be between 95 to 100 degrees by late afternoon. While most will stay dry, an isolated pop-up strong storm cannot be ruled out.

>>WHIO Doppler 7 Interactive Radar

QUICK-LOOK FORECAST:

- Air Pollution Advisory until Monday

- Heat index near 100 again Monday afternoon

- Storms to bring locally heavy rain by Tuesday

 >>5-day forecast

This Evening: A hot and humid evening is in the forecast with a slight chance for a pop-up storm. Any storms will quickly dissipate after sunset. Temperatures will fall through the 80s after sunset.

Tonight: Skies will become mostly clear. It will remain warm and muggy with a low around 73 degrees.

Tomorrow: Another hot day is in the forecast with the humidity making temperatures feel more like 100 degrees. Actual temperatures will top out in the lower 90s under mostly sunny skies. There is a slight chance for a pop-up late day storm. Chances will increase late Monday night. 

Tuesday: Skies will be partly cloudy with an increasing chance for scattered showers and storms developing, especially during the afternoon. Some of the storms could produce locally heavy rainfall and flash flooding. Highs will top out in the upper 80s.

>>LISTEN: Cloudy with a Chance of Podcast: A podcast for weather fans

Wednesday: Numerous showers and storms will be scattered across the Miami Valley. Some of the storms could produce locally heavy rainfall and flash flooding. Storms will taper down after sunset. Highs will be in the middle 80s.

Thursday: There is a chance for a few storms early in the day and then again toward late evening or at night. Otherwise partly cloudy skies are expected with a bit cooler, less humid air arriving. Highs will be in the lower 80s.

Friday: Scattered showers and storms will return by the afternoon with highs in the middle 80s.

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Motorcycle rider transported by medical helicopter after Middletown crash

Published: Sunday, June 17, 2018 @ 5:42 PM


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A wreck in Middletown on Sunday afternoon sent a motorcyclist to the hospital via helicopter.

Officials were not immediately able to provide many details about the crash, which happened at Grand Avenue and Burton Road, according to an Ohio State Highway Patrol dispatcher. The patrol was assisting Middletown police at the scene.

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Officials believe it involved a collision with a vehicle, and the motorcyclist was not wearing a helmet, a dispatcher said.

The man was flown by CareFlight at 4:05 p.m. to Miami Valley Hospital. No information was available about his condition.

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Fatal motorcycle crash in Warren Co.

Published: Sunday, June 17, 2018 @ 3:58 PM
Updated: Sunday, June 17, 2018 @ 5:05 PM

Motorcycle ax

UPDATE @ 5:05 p.m:

The motorcycle crash that occurred earlier today was fatal, Warren County Coroner’s Office confirmed.

A 40-year-old was believed to be traveling northbound on Riley Street near Van Horne Street. He was possibly racing a vehicle before losing control, hitting a curb, and being thrown from his motorcycle--Sgt. Wolf of Franklin confirmed. He was also believed to be wearing a helmet.

The vehicle he was racing is unknown, and no one else was injured.

FIRST REPORT: 

Emergency crews are on scene of a reported accident involving a motorcycle and a truck in Franklin.

According to dispatchers, crews are at the scene of North Main Street at North River Street.

The crash reportedly occurred around 3:20 p.m.

We are on the way to the scene to learn more and will update this page as information becomes available.

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