Man sentenced to 30 years for kidnapping

Published 10:08 pm Saturday, May 12, 2007

Richard Hager, found guilty of kidnapping a handicapped elderly man, was sentenced to serve 20 years in prison with 10 years suspended.

Hager was convicted of kidnaping James Parker and holding him against his will in a trailer to ride out Hurricane Katrina.

The story came to light shortly after the storm passed over Pearl River County and neighbors found the nearly blind, elderly man outside his storm damaged trailer.

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Immediately after the storm passed, Parker broke out a window to escape. He was found the next day still in front of the trailer from which he intended to escape.

During the trial, testimony revealed that there had been an agreement between Parker, and the defendant, Hager and Hager’s girlfriend, Bonnie Mefford. The agreement was that Parker would pay rent in exchange for room, board and care. The arrangement went well for the first two years, until they moved to Pearl River County from New Orleans months before the storm, according to testimony. After moving to Pearl River County under the same agreement, the relationship between Hager, Parker and Mefford became strained.

Hager admitted to investigators in testimony presented to the court to confining Parker to his room after Parker injured himself by jumping out of his bedroom window and other incidents when Parker left his bedroom to tear up the rest of the trailer. Hager did not take the stand during the court proceedings.

Parker said in his testimony the reason he jumped out the window was because he believed he was being held against his will.

To keep Parker from leaving his room, Hager fashioned boards with nails sticking up out of them and laid them in the hallway. To keep Parker from leaving through the window again, Hager installed a screw in the window lock, permanently locking the window. Hager admitted to Parker’s claims in his recorded statement and said those actions were for Parker’s own good.

When Hager left Parker to ride out the storm, Hager put the same boards with nails in them outside Parker’s room and left the screw installed in the window lock to keep Parker in the trailer, Parker said.

In addition, boards were tied to a rocking chair and left in the hallway to further discourage Parker from leaving his room.

Hager and Mefford left Parker with only a bucket for a bathroom, a bag of sandwiches and a small supply of water while Hager and Mefford left in their air conditioned travel trailer for higher ground to ride out the storm in Columbia. When Hager and Mefford were arrested in Columbia, they were asleep with ice chests full of beer in their travel trailer.

During his trial on April 4 and 5, Hager was found guilty of the second of two counts of kidnapping. Because the jury unable to reach an unanimous decision on Hager’s sentence, the circuit court held a separate sentencing hearing on April 18. Following the hearing, Hager was sentenced by Circuit Judge R.I. Prichard III.

Prichard sentenced Hager to a 30 years, with 20 years to be served and the remaining 10 will be suspended. As part of his sentence, Hager must obtain his GED and be tested for any chemical or alcohol dependencies before he is considered for post-release supervision, court records state. Hager’s post release supervision shall last for five years.

Mefford will be tried separately at a later date.