Lester Parker says daughters lied on witness stand, prosecutor put them up to it

Homeowner denies plotting fire that killed fireman

Editor's note: A prior version of this story listed the co-defendents' ages incorrectly. WCPO regrets this error.

HAMILTON, Ohio -- Hamilton homeowner Lester Parker claimed Monday that his daughters lied when they testified against him and said prosecutor Mike Gmoser put them up to it.

Parker and his nephew, co-defendant William "Billy" Tucker, took the stand and denied having anything to do with the fire at Parker's house that killed Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman on Dec. 28, 2015.

Parker, 67, and Tucker, 50, of Richmond, Kentucky, are charged with arson and murder in the fire at Parker’s Pater Avenue home.

Prosecutors say Parker was “under water” financially in the fall of 2015 and plotted to burn the house for insurance money. Tucker agreed to set the fire in exchange for pain pills, according to prosecutors.

Parker removed items he held dear from the house to the garage in anticipation of the fire, according to prosecutors.

One of Parker’s daughters, Cheryl Sullivan, and Sullivan’s husband testified that they noticed the items had been removed when they came to the house on the day before the fire to drive Parker and his wife to the airport.

“She told me she would say what she had to...to keep her job,” Parker said.

When Gmoser asked why her husband was lying, Parker said:

“Probably because you told him to, like you told everyone else to,” Parker said.

Parker said he was using the garage as an office in December 2015, but moved the items back into the house so his other daughter, Melissa Lainhart-Jones, could move in. On Christmas Eve 2015, Parker said he moved the items back into garage because he needed room for a family gathering.

His actions had nothing to do with anticipation of the fire, he said.

Parker also accused Lainhart-Jones of lying on the witness stand. He denied telling her, “This wasn’t supposed to happen this way.”

When defense attorney David Washington asked Parker about his financial situation in December 2015, Parker said he was behind a couple payments behind but “not in dire straits.”

Washington asked Parker if he set fire to his house

“No,” he answered.

“Did you hire someone else to set fire to your house?” Washington asked Parker.

“Absolutely not,” Parker replied.

Parker said he was never told what caused the fire at 1310 Pater.

“It could have been anything,” Parker said.

Gmoser pointed to calls Parker placed from Las Vegas to his brother’s car repair shop in Richmond, Ky., right after the fire trying to find his nephew. Parker said he was looking for Tucker to help him with his damaged home.

"I was going to get him to come secure the house for me after it caught fire,” Parker said.

Tucker also took the stand and told the jury he came to Hamilton on the night of Dec. 27, 2015, to meet up with his cousin Lainhart-Jones and buy some pills.

“It was arranged, Melissa said it had to be after midnight.” Tucker said. “I was to walk up Allstatter (Avenue) and she would come out and meet me.”

Tucker said Lainhart-Jones, whom Parker accused of lying, has been “playing” investigators for months.

Tucker said he did not go to the Pater Avenue home and had not seen his uncle for more than a year before the fire.

Tucker said he also went to Hamilton to meet up with his former girlfriend Kim Fields, who arranged a ride for him, but he didn’t want his Kentucky girlfriend to find out. He said he planned to spend a few days with Fields selling the pills in Hamilton.  

He said Courtney Basinger, who drove with Fields to pick him up, was so under the influence of drugs that night that he convinced her to pull over and he drove into Hamilton.

Tucker said he didn’t have much luck selling the pills in Hamilton and, after a fight with Fields, he returned to Kentucky.

Gmoser pointed out that Tucker lied to Hamilton police weeks later when they came to interview him at the Blue Moon Bar in Richmond, telling them he was in Richmond on the night of the fire.

“It was a big mistake,” Tucker said. “I am telling the truth now.”

Then Gmoser pointed out Tucker didn’t tell his defense attorney about the last alibi of meeting up with Lainhart-Jones until this year.

The prosecutor also questioned Tucker’s ability to tell the truth, noting several lies he told to both girlfriends through phone calls and social media messages.

“It’s not against the law to lie to a woman,” Tucker said.

Parker and his wife, Bertha, left Hamilton on the afternoon of Dec. 27, 2015, and were in Las Vegas when fire consumed the residence at 1310 Pater Ave. during the early morning hours of Dec. 28.

Wolterman died when he fell through the first floor while fighting the blaze.

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