Parker trial date set in Florida

Published 7:17 pm Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The trial date for a Poplarville woman charged in the August slayings of three Florida residents is currently set for Nov. 20 in Labelle, Fla.

During arraignment at a preliminary hearing on Monday, Sept. 11, Ruby Yolanda Parker, 31, pleaded not guilty to three counts of felony capital murder charges in the deaths of Joey Glenn Whitaker, 52, and his wife, Carolyn Whitaker, 53, and her mother, Myrtle Lee Cox, 80.

Parker is being held without bond in the Hendry County jail in Labelle on three second degree murder charges, according to officials for the five-county 20th Circuit District that includes Hendry County in south Florida.

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Dan Cavanaugh, State Attorney office head for Hendry County, said Monday a second degree murder charge carries with it a maximum penalty of a life sentence on each charge.

He said about a month before trial date there would be a docket sounding in the case where attorneys could ask for a continuance or agree to the November date. After deliberations by a six-member jury, the judge in the case would determine the sentence based on sentencing guidelines, State Attorney’s office Communications Director Chere Avery said.

The three victims were residents of Clewiston in Hendry County. Reports say the bodies were found by family members that Tuesday morning, Aug. 15, after calls to the residence went unanswered.

The cause of death in the three is not being officially released by the Florida Medical Examiner’s office or Florida law enforcement after conclusion of autopsies. Florida law enforcement did confirm an initial report that there were no visible signs of trauma to the victims.

Parker was implicated in the slayings after she and Richard Harry Harker, 35, were stopped later in a black truck reported missing from the Whitaker residence. The stop occurred following a law enforcement pursuit of the vehicle.

According to a Clewiston police report release, before officers were able to approach the pair Harker took his own life by a single gunshot to his head,

Parker had been in Florida in the company of Harker, who had been in the Mississippi area in recent months engaged in hurricane repair.

Regarding the continuing investigation into the slayings, Larry Long, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in Ft. Myers, Fla., said Thursday that agency’s investigation has now expanded from the Clewiston area.

He said part of the expansion process is to construct a timeline for Harker and Parker between Florida and Mississippi to see if there is other information or incidents that might have been reported involving the pair.

The initial reports show that Harker and Joey Glenn Whitaker had been business acquaintances and had worked together as late as last December in Mississippi, engaged in debris removal and hurricane repair.

Long said the motive behind the alleged slayings was robbery.