Double-murder defendant Brett Parker stood to receive about $1.1 million if his wife died, the prosecution disclosed Thursday in court.
That is the first public explanation of why Parker would shoot Tammy Jo Parker in what authorities say was a faked robbery intended to cover up what prosecutor Luck Campbell called an elaborate and cold-blooded plan to kill the mother of his children in their own home.
Judge DeAndrea Benjamin refused to release Parker from the Richland County jail, despite pleas from his defense lawyers that he has no criminal record and posed no public threat. Benjamin said she would reconsider in six months after prosecutors decide whether to seek the death penalty.
The defense team called the governments case more innuendo than it is fact and absolutely ridiculous. They say Parker is the victim.
Campbell, a senior 5th Circuit prosecutor, said Parker stood to gain almost $1 million in insurance and $200,000 from his dead wifes 401k plan. She worked as a pharmaceutical representative.
Neither prosecutors nor detectives said when the insurance was purchased.
Parker needed the money because he was at least $600,000 in debt, prosecutors said.
His debts stem mostly from the couples $760,000 home in the upscale Ascot Estates subdivision in the Dutch Fork area north of Irmo, Campbell said. The rest of the debt was what she would describe only as personal debt.
After the hearing, one of Parkers attorneys, Dave Fedor, countered that his client made $50,000 a year as a medical supplies salesman and that he was current on his mortgage payments.
Parker, 42, was charged last week with two counts of murder in the April 13 shooting deaths of his wife, 44, and family friend Bryan Capnerhurst, 46. Brett Parker called 911 about 12:45 p.m. to report the shootings. He told deputies he pulled a gun from the top of a safe in an upstairs room and fired in self defense after Capnerhurst shot Tammy Parker then demanded that he open the safe.
When Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott announced Parkers arrest last week after a three-month investigation, he said Capnerhurst worked for Brett Parkers illegal sports gambling business. Lott said then that gambling was behind the shootings but was not the sole motive.
It remains unclear exactly how the gambling operation affected events leading up to the shooting or if any of Parkers debts were from the gambling business that Lott said he ran for years.
The U.S. Secret Service is investigating Parkers gambling operation, Lott said.
Parker called Capnerhurst to the house that Friday the 13th, as he often did to collect his share of the gambling profits, Lott said. Capnerhurst was to receive $20,000 that day, the sheriff said. In court, the prosecutor said Capnerhurst had been apprehensive about going to the house that day but was comforted to know that Tammy Parker would be there.
Capnerhursts stepson and stepdaughter attended the Richland County courthouse hearing Thursday to support the prosecutions request that Parker be kept in jail until trial.
Stepson Heyward Barnes told the judge that his mother and sister had lived in fear while Parker was free during the months-long investigation. Barnes, choking back emotion, said the family installed an alarm system at the Capnerhurst home and relatives have had to stay with his mother at night.
The concern for the safety of our family has taken an immense emotional toll on us, especially in the case of my mother and my little sister, Barnes said from a prepared statement. Knowing that the person who committed this crime has been out free and attending to their daily life intensifies our hardship and fear.
Parker, dressed in a navy-blue jail jumpsuit and shackled around the waist and ankles, did not speak during the 15-minute hearing. As he entered the courtroom, he glanced at his father, Jack Parker, and other relatives and friends who sat behind the defense table. But Brett Parker did not mouth any words and whispered occasionally to his lawyers.
After the hearing, one of the defense lawyers, Mark Whitlark, said hes confident Parker will be granted bail when he reapplies in January because of his otherwise clean criminal record, deep roots in the community, his cooperation during the investigation and because he turned himself in last Friday.
Fedor, who has represented Parker for months, ridiculed the contention that his client killed Tammy Parker to balance his accounts. If youre in debt, thats no reason to shoot your wife, Fedor said. If thats the case, there would be a lot of wives dead.
Fedor said police and prosecutors should be investigating Capnerhurst, a statement that might foreshadow the defense strategy at trial.
Prosecutor Campbell said her office is still weighing whether to try Parker for his life. State law allows authorities to consider various aggravating circumstances in deciding whether to seek the death penalty in murder cases. The killing of two or more people is one of those circumstances.
Campbell said Parker had two affairs in the months before the shooting. He shot his wife five times with a 9 mm handgun before killing Capnerhurst, authorities say. The fatal shot struck her head.
Brett Parker had given that gun to Capnerhurst a month before the slayings. He told detectives Capnerhurst brought it with him to rob the couple.
Capnerhurst was shot four times with a .410-gauge Taurus gun known as The Judge, which can fire shotgun shells. He was struck in the chest, limbs and head, the prosecutor said. Both weapons belonged to Brett Parker.
In his account, Parker told deputies he was in a downstairs bathroom when Capnerhurst arrived and soon shot Tammy Parker upstairs. He said he rushed toward her only to be confronted by an armed Capnerhurst at the top of the stairs, demanding that Parker open the safe. When Parker got upstairs, he could see his wifes legs protruding from a bathroom doorway, Parker said in his statements to detectives. Before Capnerhurst could shoot him, Parker said, he was able to fire, his defense team has said.
Fedor told the judge that Lott has said he did not oppose bond for Parker. But, Stan Smith, one of the sheriffs senior detectives, said in court that Lott supports keeping Parker in jail.
Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.