EXCLUSIVE – A charred diary of female obsession, a previous arson conviction and a mystery man dashing to the murder scene: The strange life of the ‘mail bomber’ accused of killing his in-laws
- Richard Parker, 49, allegedly murdered Jon Setzer, 74, and Marion, 72, by leaving parcel at their home
- Parker, married to the Setzer’s daughter, Laura, co-owned business with retired lawyer father-in-law and live in a house on the same property
- Wherever Parker goes a pile of ash seems to follow with four fires linked to him in recent years
- Found guilty of burning down ‘dream home’ because he was behind on renovating it
- The victims of that attack have also revealed his charred diary that set out his ‘infatuation’ with keeping his wife happy
- Witness to the murders of the Setzers revealed to MailOnline that a mystery figure ran to the scene in the immediate aftermath of the bombing, believed to be Parker with a ‘white face’
- He sat for hours by the bedside of Mrs Setzer along with her other children
- Parker pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of premeditated first-degree murder and unlawful possession of a prohibited weapon Tuesday
The man accused of killing his retired lawyer father-in-law and his wife with a mail bomb has been linked to as many as four mysterious fires in the past, including an arson attack where he burned down a historic cabin, MailOnline can reveal today.
Richard Parker, 49, allegedly murdered Jon Setzer, 74, who was killed immediately in the blast last Monday after he picked up the parcel with outside his home. His wife Marion, 72, died from her injuries on Wednesday.
As investigators scramble to find a motive of why Parker would have allegedly wanted to maim and murder his in-laws, MailOnline has discovered that wherever he goes a pile of ash seems to follow.
The victims of an arson attack at Parker’s hands have also revealed his charred diary that set out his minute-by-minute ‘obsession’ with keeping his wife happy.
And a witness to the murders of the Setzers has revealed to MailOnline that a mystery figure ran to the scene in the immediate aftermath of the bombing.
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Plea: Richard Parker appears in court Tuesday to deny that he killed his in-laws with a parcel bomb that he left in their postbox outside their home in Lebanon, Tennessee
Motive: Parker lived on the property with his wife, Laura and Jon and Marion Setzer, above. Investigators have given no indication of why he allegedly killed them. But MailOnline has been told of four past fires he’s linked to
Outwardly, Parker was and still is known at his church as a devout Christian leader and father of four disciplined sons who slaved away ‘morning to night’ for years to build two palatial homes on 20 acres for his family, Alzheimer’s-stricken mother and in-laws.
Dave Hughen, 66, and his wife Judy live around 100 yards from where the Setzer’s where killed, where they run a Christian day school.
The Hughens revealed they had their suspicions about Parker before when their barn burned to the ground in 2005.
‘Richard came over here right while I was fighting the fire with a garden hose and the fire department was here and he says to me “I’m sorry this happened”‘, said Mr Hughen.
Lucky for the Hughens they’d retired from years of breaking horses and so the only items of value they lost that night were their mowers and other farming equipment. Investigators at the time pegged the blaze to the stash of diesel mixing with hay.
‘It was a dry summer and they called it spontaneous combustion,’ a Hughen said. ‘But I can’t help but wonder if it was deliberate now.’
Not long after the barn incident another fire broke out at the Parker’s majestic home.
Their six-bedroom, six bathroom eggshell yellow tudor-styled home dwarfs most of the single-family brick houses along the cul-de-sac on Vance Lane.
On a Sunday a year after the barn blaze the Parkers loaded up their car to attend their church in nearby Nashville.
As the Hughens were driving out of their driveway next to the Parker estate they noticed smoke pluming from the house’s roof and called 911.
Carnage: The scene of devastation at the Setzer home after the blast. Police have said a note was left but have not revealed what it said or divulged how the bomb was made
Home: Parker was known at his church as a devout Christian leader and father of four disciplined sons who slaved away ‘morning to night’ for years to build two palatial homes on 20 acres for his family, Alzheimer’s-stricken mother and in-laws
Mr Hughen said: ‘He lost a great deal of the roof and the overhang and a lot of the second story.
‘The wife and kids just fell down to the ground and are completely devastated,’ Mr Hughen said. ‘I’m watching Richard’s demeanor and he’s being a hero and dashing into the house.’
Soon after the blaze, Mr Hughen approached Parker to offer his help and was struck at how the family had been sleeping on the floor of the house with no furniture inside.
Hughen also asked about the cause of the fire.
‘Richard tells me that fire investigators pretty much determined that the heating and air company had installed a split system incorrectly in the attic,’ said Hughen. ‘But that was a notable local company that had been there for years and years that put that system in.
‘And in my history of being a contractor – now going on 30 years – I’ve never heard of that.’
But Hughen says that after the Parker family came into a settlement for the fire, the family all of a sudden had furniture delivered to the home.
‘He rebuilds it and immediately afterwards furniture is moved into the house. After that I didn’t care about being his friend or getting into his business,’ Mr Hughen said.
What the Hughens didn’t know was that Parker was a convict who burned down a historic log home in 1990.
The 5,000 square foot structure built with massive chestnut wood boulders was supposed to be Danny and Rosemary Martin’s home where they would raise their two young sons. Parker was in charge of the restoration.
‘This was our dream and you can’t put a price on dreams,’ Mr Martin said as he leaned over the barbed wire fencing now enclosing a herd of grazing cattle.
The property not far from the historical Trail of Tears, was a historic structure built in 1832.
‘Our boys were looking so forward to living in that house,’ Mr Martin, a retired butcher, said. ‘They already had hiding places they’d come up with.’
He pointed to the overgrowth on a cylindrical storm shelter and the rocks which outlined the foundation and garage.
‘The fire was so hot it melted stuff off the fire trucks,’ Martin recalled.
Earlier on the day the home burned to the ground, Friday 13, 1990, Mark Dunavant, Rosemary’s father, said he saw Parker eat with his hired workers, which was a first.
According to Mr Dunavant, Parker attempted to burn the front of the log cabin as the workers were eating their lunch.
‘He intended to for that fire to go up. When he lit it he thought it would go up and catch the paint thinner and it would be accidental some way.
Suspicion: Neighbor Dave Hughen said that his barn burned down after Parker moved in. Investigators said it was due to hay and diesel, but now he is not so sure
Deadly cargo: The Sezter’s picked up the parcel from their mailbox. It was not delivered by any delivery firm
‘He cut the water hose,’ Mr Dunavant said. ‘He attempted to set it on fire at the back of the house where nobody could see him.’
But that time the fire was put out by the other workers. But Parker promised to stay late that day and ‘finished the job.’
Parker might have slipped away unscathed were it not for Rosemary Martin’s mother passing by. She saw Parker fleeing the work site just as the flames were licking at the home.
Parker was months in arrears to finish restoring the cabin by the June deadline.
The desperate builder was also trying to cut corners and by stiffing the building supplier and lying about to the Martins and refusing to hire help until he was cornered.
‘We told him, “You’re not going to do this by yourself,” Rosemary Martin recalled. ‘You can make this much money but you need to get some help.’
The couple hoped Parker would walk off the job.
‘But he said, “I’ll be through by Friday.” And Friday the 13th he burned it.’
The next day, Parker showed up for work as normal.
‘He looked us in the eye and we were so saddened and upset,’ said Mr Martin. ‘He told us “You all had plenty of insurance, right?”‘
Parker eventually confessed to the crime after detectives concluded the fire was started with gasoline poured over the home. He was brought to civil and criminal trials and was forced to pay thousands in restitution and was put on probation for four years.
When the Martins went to the site to salvage their belongings, Mrs Martin said she found a peculiar journal of Parker’s that revealed a strange infatuation he had with his wife, Laura.
‘From the notes, I read it as a complete obsession,’ Mrs Martin said. ‘The whole thing was weird.’ She described various entries that Parker would keep each day.
‘The part that got me was he would write: “5 a.m. wake up. Then 5:10 kiss my wife. Then 5:15 go fix coffee for my wife. Then take her to school and then read the bible verses”. It was full of notes and it was about what he was going to do for her.’
Dream home: Parker was convicted of burning down this historic log cabin. He had been hired to renovate it by the Martin family. However, Parker fell behind on the job and then torched it on Friday 13, 1990
Ruined: Danny Martin at the site where the home was burned down. He said Parker came to work the day after the blaze pretending like nothing had happened
Weird: Rosemary Martin said she found a diary she believed was Parker’s in which he detailed to the minute how he would keep his wife Laura happy