This Week’s Newsletter (dated 1 July 2018) is the first in True’s 25th(!!) Year. It’s a solid issue with tragedy and comedy, and this blog post has examples of both. While you may seethe at the first story, you’re almost guaranteed to laugh by the end of this page.
Let’s start with some outrage, remembering that True is about news — and thus, by extension, human — commentary. While the taglines can certainly be funny, as you’ll see on this story they can also be used as a vehicle for biting slams. So with that:
Fifty years ago, a car ran over Carolee Ashby, 4, in upstate New York — and the driver kept going. For decades, the girl’s family had no closure about who was responsible for her death. Police had a suspect, but the case was never solved. Recently, in Sanford, Maine, a car came blasting through the gate at a baseball park during a 9:00 a.m. game, drove around the bases, and ran over a man who was there to watch his grandson play. He was killed. The driver, a woman with two drunk-driving convictions, tried to leave, but was caught by police. Five years ago, the man who was killed, Douglas Parkhurst, 68, was contacted by police after a tip and, once he was assured the statute of limitations was expired and he couldn’t be prosecuted, admitted in a signed confession that at age 18, he was the one who killed the little girl when he was drunk, and fled. He was the original suspect in the case. The baseball park driver, Carol Sharrow, 51, has been charged with manslaughter. (RC/Portland Press Herald) …Slaughter, yes. Man, not really.
Darlene Ashby McCann was holding her little sister’s hand when the girl was hit back in 1968, and thrown 133 feet. After Parkhurst was killed in much the same way as her little sister, McCann commented, “He left us all these years with nothing, not even an ‘I’m sorry’” — Parkhurst never gave the family an apology, just the police, saying in his confession he was “so sorry” for killing the girl.
It’s not that Parkhurst was afraid to speak to the family: he did call McCann, but only to say “I am not sure that I did it” — after signing the four-page confession describing how he did hit the girl.
Finding the Truth
The case was broken by the police investigator in the case, Russ Johnson — after his retirement. He had inherited the case years after the incident, and couldn’t explain why the original investigator had not followed up on the lead on Parkhurst. When originally interviewed, Parkhurst explained away the dent in his car by saying he had run into a pole. I find it hard to believe that in the decades since killing the girl, he never looked up the law to see when the statute of limitations had saved him from prosecution; he had to be assured by police that he would not be prosecuted before he would confess.
The unsolved case haunted Johnson, and in 2012, after he had retired, he made a post on Facebook asking for leads. He got them, and cracked the case. But a reporter who reviewed all the police documents found a disturbing item: police were told in 1974 — six years after the death — that Parkhurst was drunk at a party and bragged that he had killed the girl, “and got away with it.”
Why didn’t police follow up on the lead in 1968? Why didn’t they follow up on the tip in 1974? Unclear: those investigators are long retired, perhaps even dead. McCann, the older sister, summed it up this way: “It feels it has made a full circle. Now I am relieved. I truly am. The same thing that happened to my sister happened to him. It made a complete circle. Now it is time to move on.”
I feel sorry for the grandson, who probably watched his grandfather run down by a drunk driver, and now has to contend with the facts of his grandfather’s actions as a teen — and well beyond. But, at least, he has the closure Parkhurst consciously denied the Ashby family for so long.
And the Humor?
Got you covered. This one’s actually a follow-up to a story from last year:
As promised, the London “fatberg” — a giant glob of “congealed fat, oil, and wet wipes” found clogging the English city’s sewer (“An Exhibit of Titanic Proportions” from This is True #1228, 24 December 2017) — has gone on display at the Museum of London. At least, a piece of it has: the thing was 250 meters (820 ft) long, and weighed an estimated 130 metric tons. Despite the fact that the museum display is now hatching flies, “begun to sweat,” and is changing colors, the exhibit has prompted a “marked increase” in visitors, says the museum’s curator of social and working history, Vyki Sparkes. So much so that the museum is considering doing something to preserve it beyond its scheduled five-month exhibition. Sparkes says the chunk o’ fatberg is one of the museum’s most popular exhibits and produces an “incredible reaction” from visitors. So much so that the next idea, currently under development, is “Fatberg — the Musical”. Really. (RC/BBC) …It ain’t over until the fatberg sings.
BBC noted it took nine weeks for sewer workers to remove the fatberg from the sewer using power tools. Each day they pulled out 20-30 metric tons of fat — “equivalent to 80,000-120,000 packs of lard.” Mmmmmm!
So if only a portion was put on display in the museum, what happened to the rest of it? It was processed into biodiesel, which is pretty cool.
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13 Comments on “Cosmic Comeuppance”
There was a recent Doctor Who episode – well, within the last three or four years – which was all about taking people’s excess fat and making little babies with them….
I’m not surprised Parkhurst never checked the statute of limitations. Unless you’re a lawyer or legal expert, you may not know which crime(s) to check the statute of limitations for. So, you could confess, knowing that the statute of limitations has expired for “hit & run” but then be charged with “vehicular manslaughter”, which you didn’t think to check the statute of limitations for.
Oh, I understand, but after a decade or two, you’d think he’d be curious…. -rc
There is something satisfying about the cosmic karma element of this story, but the real scandal is the failure of the justice system to deliver justice. I am not sure there is any merit in having a Statute of Limitations law any longer, particularly since the advent of DNA. I am also not convinced that “double jeopardy” laws have merit either.
I’m even more surprised that there IS such a thing as a statute of limitations, especially when it comes to any kind of action that results in someone’s death.
Twenty-five years. Yer practically older than the Internet.
Well, to be fair, this is the START of year 25. But it’ll be over before we know it! -rc
Karma is nice in this situation Too bad the case wasn’t followed up on when it was fresh. It is not a unique situation. Here in Oregon we have the Clackamas County Sheriff’s department where we get to see the lack of follow up. Headline: “Detective ignored rape, abuse cases for years, documents show”. That article is from May 2017 (at OregonLive.com). The story is still winding down as the Sheriff, just a couple of weeks ago, finally after a year, apologized for the detective’s actions. The sergeant that blew the whistle on the situation originally has this year sued the Sheriff’s office for retaliation and harassment. And the County Commissioners hired outside consultants to review the department’s actions. That report was not favorable to the sheriff. Now, we just wait and see IF the sheriff’s department will make any kind of changes.
Not an error so much as missed irony. Douglas Parkhurst was killed while he was shielding kids from the crazy driver.
Not an error nor missed: Because there were conflicting reports about that, I couldn’t conclude that “This is True”. -rc
Understood. Didn’t know there were conflicting reports.
Poetic (or Pontiac) Justice, nonetheless.
While there was at least one claim he was pushing kids out of the way, another report says “Witnesses to the incident posted in a Sanford community Facebook group that Parkhurst was trying to close a gate when he was hit.” It’s a significantly different concept, so with the conflict I left out both sides. -rc
I have been a subscriber of your free newsletter for many years. This is the first article I have felt to be badly written.
I think, in short, that you are trying to say that someone was guilty of a hit and run many years ago, was never charged, and eventually confessed to police. Then later someone killed him.
Who was related to whom, and why the murder, is not clear to me. But maybe relevant.
And why anyone would condone that murder in front of his grandson seems bizarre to me.
What’s bizarre to me is your strange interpretation. I can only assume there’s a bit of a language barrier here. It’s clearly stated that Parkhurst committed a hit-and-run many years ago — and confessed to it only after the police came knocking (and only after he was sure he couldn’t be prosecuted). Then very recently — the impetus for this being a news story — he was run over and killed by a different apparently-drunk driver. Then, in my comments, I quoted the little girl’s now-grown sister — and identified her clearly (yes, she has taken her husband’s surname, which is common here). But “murder”?! Unless you consider all drunk-driving-related deaths “murder,” no one is suggesting that there was homicidal intent in the drunk driver, and your use of that word is the first such use on this entire page. To then stretch that to an assumption that I “condone” that “murder” is, frankly, ridiculous.
What I did do is comment on Parkhurst’s manhood. “Slaughter” (“The killing of animals especially for food.” or, in the sense I used, “To [be] kill[ed] in a violent or brutal manner.” –American Heritage dictionary) is a very different concept than “murder,” and I stand by my characterization of his lack of humanity and morals. If you wish to argue that he’s a great example of manhood, then by all means attempt to do so. But mischaracterizing my clearly stated comments (even if perhaps somewhat difficult to grasp by a non-native English speaker) is not a great place to start. -rc
Maybe there is really a God.
Why do you feel there is a God now, after Parkhurst lived a long life, but wasn’t one when Carolee had barely started hers? -rc
Didn’t you previously publish a story about someone who confessed to a crime under the mistaken impression that the statute of limitations had expired?
Also, I can’t help disagreeing with the view of Jim (and Kim) that the Statute of Limitations is outdated. Either it was always appropriate (for a given severity of crime) or it wasn’t. The Year and a Day Rule is an example of something that technology has made inappropriate (and it has been abolished in England for that reason). DNA should make it easier to solve crimes more quickly, giving closure to everyone. The question is under what circumstances the threat of being caught over a prolonged period is sufficient punishment for the crime, and whether/when enabling people to confess without punishment (in cases where the police haven’t managed to gather sufficient evidence) serves the common good. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe that New York’s Statute of Limitations would extend to intentional murder as opposed to vehicular manslaughter.
Thanks: I was hoping someone would argue the other side. As for the story, you have a good memory: it’s from 2012. -rc
Dave, as long as children are killed/abused/raped/murdered/etc., there will not be and can not be a “God”.
Randy, much of the time I consider a death caused by a drunk driver as murder. Almost all the time, actually. You knowingly drink — you know that you will have to drive/want to drive after that/those drink(s) — it might as well be murder. It’s like one of the pics you posted a while back about alcohol “dissolving” things — it also dissolves a hell of a lot of innocent lives. (Sorry for the rant, but I have a major problem with obliviots… no, pure brain-dead idiots, who drink and drive.)
As one who has done that rant in more detail in the past (example), I can’t criticize your brief one! -rc
To those wishing to eliminate the statutes of limitation, I offer a counterpoint – do you know where you were at 10 PM on June 7, 1987? When the police come calling, regardless of whether you committed a crime or not, your only hope to avoid being arrested is to prove you didn’t commit the crime you are accused of. After 20 years or more, who can remember a completely unremarkable day? Who can get someone to corroborate your location on a completely unremarkable day? If mistakes were never made, then you would have a point, but they are. Repeatedly and often. Something to think about.
In addition, DNA isn’t some magic bullet. It degrades over time, and also isn’t infallible, especially when multiple sources are mixed in the same sample. For an excellent discussion of this by a criminal lawyer (if Randy will allow), see: http://mimesislaw.com/fault-lines/broward-county-crime-lab-replaces-the-bad-with-the-secret/13823