NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Wilson County man accused of killing his in-laws with an explosive device has pleaded guilty.
Richard Parker entered the plea Tuesday in Wilson County Circuit Court in a deal that calls for him to serve life in prison without parole.
Parker was the son-in-law of Jon and Marian Setzer, ages 74 and 72, who were killed after a package bomb exploded at their house on Vance Lane in Lebanon on February 10. Parker lived directly behind them in rural Wilson County.
Prosecutors also revealed a motive in the deaths, saying Parker owed the Setzers thousands of dollars.
The plea allowed him to avoid the death penalty, which prosecutors had filed to seek if the case had gone to trial.
The other counts of premeditated first-degree murder and unlawful possession of a prohibited weapon were dismissed as part of the plea.
Facts of the case were read during the hearing Tuesday morning, which included details not previously released to the public.
Prosecutors said Marian Setzer was able to tell authorities that she and her husband had received the package, which had a FedEx shipping label, on the morning of the explosion on Monday, February 10.
Prosecutors said the box included a lamp and a note that said to plug it in. The couple allegedly did not plug it in until around 5 p.m. when it exploded.
They said Parker and one of his sons had pulled the victims out of the home following the explosion.
Jon Setzer was killed in the blast. Marian Setzer was transported to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, where she died two days later.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents were able to discover that the package had not been sent through FedEx or the mail, although the shipping label had been printed off at a local Office Max.
The package and materials were found to have been bought with cash at the Walmart in Gallatin on Friday, February 7. After reviewing surveillance, investigators determined those materials were bought by Parker. They also said surveillance showed him getting into his minivan, and they were able to make out the vehicle's tag number.
Once he was indicted, Parker allegedly admitted that he had put the items used to construct the explosive device, which was made to look like a functioning lamp, in a barn on the property. He then told investigators he made the lamp over the weekend before putting it on the Setzer's porch on Monday morning.
Prosecutors said the motive for the crime was money. They said Parker had allegedly borrowed money from Mr. Setzer in November 2013, and was distraught that it had become due.
Prosecutors said he also stole a check from Mr. Setzer, and cashed the forged check for $12,000 at a Murfreesboro bank.
Before his arrest, Parker sat for hours at Marian Setzer's bedside along with her other children, said Kevin Ulmet, senior pastor of the Nashville First Church of the Nazarene.
The Setzers moved to Lebanon to be closer to their daughter Laura, along with her husband and their four grandchildren.
Parker's pastor said there was never any sign of trouble between the son-in-law and the Setzers.
Richard and his wife, Laura, were longtime members of the church, Ulmet said. The Setzers had been members for years before moving to Lebanon, but they still had close ties to the Nashville congregation, he said.
He said people in the congregation had all thought of Parker as a protective father who wanted his four boys to grow up safe.
Setzer and Parker were said to have been business partners in a company called Legacy Restorations.
Jon Setzer was an attorney who handled wills and trusts, but he had been in very ill health in recent years. Friends said he was on dialysis and had heart problems and high blood pressure, among other health issues.
Marian Setzer had formerly worked as a dental hygienist.
Parker had been in trouble before. In 1990, he burned down a home that he was supposed to be renovating. In that case, his father-in-law, who concentrated his practice around estates and trusts, helped represent him. Setzer's former law partner said the father-in-law helped because he didn't believe the arson charge was justified.
Parker served four years of probation and was ordered to pay $40,000 restitution.
The couple whose home was burned, Danny and Rosemary Martin, said Parker got behind on renovations and he burned their house after they confronted him about the problems and gave him a deadline to finish the job. They believed Parker got in over his head financially and thought that burning down their house would solve his problems.
- Trial Date Set For Man Accused Of Killing In-Laws In Explosion
- Victims Of Lebanon Explosion Laid To Rest
- Man Enters 'Not Guilty' Plea In Deadly Lebanon Explosion
- Wilson Co. Explosion Suspect Previously Arrested For Arson
- Son-In-Law Charged With Homicide In Lebanon Explosion
- Officials Seek Evidence At Site Of Deadly Explosion
(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.)