Richard Parker, the son-in-law accused of killing his in-laws with a package bomb that exploded Feb. 10 at their Vance Lane home, pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of first-degree murder in a deal to avoid the death penalty.
Criminal court Judge John Wootten Jr. sentenced Parker to life in prison for each count without the possibility of parole. As part of the plea agreement, Parker’s other two counts of premeditated first-degree murder and single count of unlawful possession of a prohibited weapon were dismissed. The sentences will run consecutively.
The plea allowed Parker to avoid the death penalty, which prosecutors sought when his trial was expected to begin Oct. 28.
“This was a thoughtless crime,” said Mark Gwinn, TBI director. “Today’s admission of guilt guarantees the community that the man responsible will never go free.”
A Wilson County special grand jury indicted Parker, 49, less than a week after an explosion killed Jon and Marion Setzer. He was arraigned Feb. 18, where he initially pleaded not guilty.
“We are pleased with the outcomes of today’s proceedings,” said Marianna Rogers, daughter of the Setzers. “The outcry of love and support from our community sustained us more than they’ll ever know.
“Throughout this process, we were treated with nothing less than professionalism, courtesy and compassion from everyone we encountered.”
At a previous motions hearing in early April and again in late June, Wootten expressed his intent to move the case along and set a trial date for Oct. 28.
Prior to Tuesday’s plea, Parker remained in Wilson County Jail on $1 million bond following an indictment and arrest Feb. 13 for charges of killing his in-laws with an explosive device that detonated at their home just outside of Lebanon. Jon Setzer was killed at the scene and Marion Setzer succumbed to injuries Feb. 12 after she was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center via LifeFlight helicopter.
It’s not yet known where Parker will serve his prison sentence.
Authorities initially did not suspect Parker as a suspect but several clues, including video evidence from a Gallatin Walmart that showed Parker buying several items used to make the bombing device and package, surfaced during a three-day investigation by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
Parker and his wife, Laura, lived next door to the Setzers. Their home was situated behind the Setzer home on 20 acres. Laura Parker was not named as a suspect in the case.
Assistant District Attorney Jimmy Lea pointed to money as a possible motive behind Parker’s actions. Parker owed his father-in-law money at the time of the incident and admitted to authorities he forged a $1,200 check stolen from Setzer, according to Lea.
“It was a weird, unusual event that happened here in Wilson County,” said assistant district attorney Brian Fuller. “On behalf of the Lebanon DA, we want to thank all law enforcement agencies who worked well together.”
According to authorities, Parker has one arson conviction in Giles County from 1993. He served four years of probation following his conviction.
Richard Parker owned Legacy Restorations. The business is listed at 576 Vance Lane, the same address as the Parker home.