Chris Berendt Staff Writer
September 4, 2013
A Clinton man was convicted and sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in prison for raping and sexually assaulting a female near Cliff’s Fast Stop in October 2009, a punishment District Attorney Ernie Lee hopes will act to protect the community and other potential victims.
James Earl Parker, Jr., 24, formerly of 430 Sampson St., Clinton, was found guilty of two counts of second degree rape, one count of second degree sexual offense and one count of first degree kidnapping by a jury in Sampson County Superior Court Friday.
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge W. Douglas Parsons subsequently sentenced the defendant to two consecutive prison sentences of not less than 90 months nor more than 117 months, meaning a minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum of 19.5 years. The trial began at the beginning of last week, Monday, Aug. 26, with the state represented by Assistant District Attorney Robert N. Thigpen and the defendant represented by Larry S. Height.
Evidence showed that at approximately 8 p.m. on Oct. 27, 2009, the victim was walking from Newkirk Park toward Cliff’s Fast Stop on Lisbon Street in Clinton, when she was grabbed from behind near Thornton’s Storage, forced into bushes near a fence behind the storage buildings, raped twice and forced to perform oral sex on an unknown assailant.
The victim testified that she was choked during the incident and at one point blacked out. Following the assault, the attacker told the victim she could “tell her boyfriend whatever (she) wanted (he) ain’t scared of him” and rode away on a bicycle.
The victim walked to a nearby friend’s home for help, and then to the Sampson Regional Medical Center, where she was treated and a sexual assault kit was collected. The victim testified that two days prior to being raped, and while standing in front of Cliff’s Fast Stop, she was asked for oral sex by the same person that assaulted her. The victim was never able to identify her attacker.
Based upon a witness interview, Parker was developed as a suspect and voluntarily spoke with Clinton Police Department Capt. Donald Edwards the next day. Parker denied knowing the victim, having sex with the victim or being in the area where the assault took place.
During the interview with Edwards, Parker volunteered his DNA in an attempt to clear his name, but when Edwards began to collect it, he asked to leave the Police Department. The police captain allowed him to leave and got a search warrant for Parker’s DNA several days later.
At the trial, Erin Ermish, a forensic scientist with the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory, compared the items of evidence collected in the sexual assault kit with the known DNA samples of the defendant, the victim and her boyfriend. Ermish testified that she determined the DNA on the vaginal swabs taken from the victim matched Parker. The defendant’s DNA was also found on the victim’s underwear and a cigarette butt located near the crime scene, Ermish testified.
Two of the defendant’s three witnesses — his mother and a friend — testified that he was at home the night of the rape.
The state noted Parker’s significant criminal history. According to the N.C. Department of Corrections, he has a string of felony convictions from 2006-11, including felony breaking and entering, larceny, assault on an officer, larceny of bank notes, common law robbery, malicious conduct by prisoner and multiple convictions on injury to real property.
Lee credited the Clinton Police Department for its work, Edwards for his investigation and Thigpen for his preparation, all of which would ensure Parker would be put behind bars. He also expressed his gratitude to the victim for her bravery in coming forward.
“This office appreciates the willingness of the victim to report these crimes and then to testify in court,” Lee stated. “This office also appreciates Captain Edwards and the Clinton Police Department investigating this matter and working hard to ensure that justice was done. Assistant District Attorney Robbie Thigpen did a good job in preparing this case. This defendant deserved a significant active sentence and it is hoped that this sentence will serve to protect the community and possibly other victims from this defendant for the foreseeable future.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.