Judy Parker’s life became easier after she met her husband, John Parker, a blossoming millionaire. But, on the night before their tenth wedding anniversary, someone shot John in the upscale suburb of Merrillville, Indiana. On April 17th, 2003, police received a call from 33-year-old Judy.
“I didn't see anybody, all I seen was, I heard the shots and I looked, and it was just a person running,” Judy told police, according to Oxygen’s Snapped.
John was shot inside the office building of his successful vacuum cleaner distributorship. His wallet was taken. It looked like a robbery.
Born in 1969, Judy grew up poor in a difficult family situation. She jumped on the first chance she could to escape. At age 14, she received her mother’s blessing to marry a young pipefitter and she left town. At 16, Judy gave birth to her daughter, Christina. Her son Daniel was born a year later. The young family slept on a mattress on the floor above a bar. Judy found her new life just as difficult as her previous one. But, she was determined to live better. In 1988, Judy left her first husband. The 19-year-old single mom took a job selling vacuum cleaners door to door. That’s when she met John Parker, a 19-year-old up and comer in the company. The two began dating, and John became a surrogate father for Judy’s two children. After three years together, Judy and John had a child of their own. The year after their first child, they wed. Judy had a stable relationship and John was doing well with his business. He was able to open his own franchise. He went from number one salesman to number one distributor. John made his first million by the time he was 29.
Not long after the birth of their second child in 1997, John and Judy bought a house in an upscale neighborhood. Judy’s children from her previous marriage went from kids who slept on a mattress above a bar to kids inhabiting a massive house. And they were arguably becoming a little spoiled and rebellious. At age 12, Daniel took his step-dad’s new Navigator for a joy ride. He smashed up all the neighbors’ mailboxes. And how did John respond? He went around and made good on all the damage to spare Daniel some trouble, so he could have a chance at obtaining a driver’s license one day.
April 17th, 2003: Shortly after they got to a restaurant to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary, Christina called Judy. Judy claimed that one of the younger children had left some homework at the office. At least that’s what Judy told John. They went by the business, and John and Judy went inside the warehouse. Judy returned to the car and John returned shortly after, only he was shot.
Immediately, police were suspicious.
“Who would be in that deserted, desolate, warehouse area at 9:30 at night waiting to rob somebody?” asked Donald Toth, former Merrillville police lieutenant.
Prosecutor Bernard Carter was concerned after he learned that John died with a $20,000 Rolex watch and other expensive jewelry on.
And, usually, the first person that police look at when a spouse is murdered is the other spouse and that’s just what police did. Investigators began looking into John’s marriage.
And then, a report came in from Danny’s school resource officer. In October of 2002, six months before John was murdered, a counselor at a local halfway house had contacted the school resource officer at Crown Point High School. Two students, teens who lived at the halfway house, were seen flashing six thousand dollars of cash. When pressed by a counselor they confessed that they got it from Danny. He asked them to “take care” of John Parker. The two teens said they said they never planned to actually. They basically just wanted to rip Danny off. Their cash was confiscated by authorities.
The police immediately suspected that Judy gave Danny the money. They were hearing rumors that Judy was cheating on John. One of her alleged affairs was with one of John’s workers. An affair would have given Judy motive – since adultery would likely put Judy on the losing end of a divorce settlement – while John’s death would leave her with everything: their estate was worth around $2 million dollars and John had a $1.4 million-dollar life insurance policy.
On April 21st, investigators brought Judy’s son in for questioning. Danny, age 15, showed up at the courthouse with his mom. Danny told police that John was abusive.
“If I had trouble, he’d get over exaggerate all that stuff, and hit me, throw me against the walls, and stuff,” Danny said. He admitted to giving the two boys money in order to make his step-dad feel what he did. But, denied having anything to do with his murder. Police had enough probable cause to file charges on him through the juvenile court for murder. Danny fully implicated himself in a plot to do something to John and now John was dead.
Judy denied any involvement with any of it. She said she didn’t give Danny the money to hurt John.
“We were completely amazed for her to shove a child in front of her to make sure she doesn’t go to jail,” said Robert Wiley, Merrillville Police Commander.
Danny was locked up but it didn’t last long. If a parent is a suspect in a crime, that parent cannot then give permission for their child to speak. That meant Danny’s incriminating statements were all inadmissible. He was let go and the family moved on with their life.
Judy moved in with a boyfriend, John’s employee. She tried to file a claim against John’s $1.5 million dollar life insurance policy – but John’s family intervened because they suspected her part in his death. She didn’t get the life insurance policy yet, but she wasn’t exactly struggling financially. She and her boyfriend continue running John’s business and Judy liquidated John’s cars, boat and his gold jewelry.
“I knew from the very beginning that the person who would benefit the most from his death was Judy, so ultimately it had to be Judy behind it,” Tanya Parker, John Parker’s sister told Snapped. Tanya tried to remove John’s children from Judy’s custody but to no avail.
By February 2007 it had been almost four years since John’s murder. Judy, 37, had a more than three million dollar payoff that included the couple’s house, business and $1.5 million dollars worth of life insurance.
Daniel, now 19, moved to Arizona to be with his biological father. Christina, 21, got married and started a family in the same area she grew up. In February 2006 Christina’s husband had an outstanding warrant on a marijuana charge. Once police had him in the interrogation room, they asked him about John’s murder. He became very fidgety. He told police that Christina had told him that Danny had driven to John’s work and shot him. He also admitted that Christina bought the gun. And the mastermind according to the husband: Judy.
Christina then admitted to police that she was involved, that she bought the gun, that Danny was the shooter and that her mom had coordinated everything.
Danny was arrested the next day day in Arizona and he confirmed everything that his sister had already told police. He said that he was basically brainwashed into killing his stepfather. Danny became angry that his mother had done this to him and he said in his statement, “I, I can’t believe my mom used me like that.”
Both kids were arrested and in November of 2008, after both her children had agreed to testify against their mother, investigators finally arrested Judy for murder, conspiracy to commit murder and felony murder. She took a plea and in 2009, 39-year-old Judy pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder. She was sentenced to 33 years in prison.
22-year-old Danny was sentenced to 23 years in prison. 23-year-old Christina received a 5-year sentence for her role in the conspiracy.
“It was a fair outcome,” said Russell Brown, an attorney. “The children were held responsible for their role in the case, but Judy took the brunt of the sentence because she was the mastermind behind it. So, I think justice in this case was served.”
John’s brother David Parker, doesn’t agree and feels Judy’s sentence wasn’t enough – considering she’d not only killed John, she’d also destroyed her children’s lives in the process.
“Knowing how evil she was, I wish she’d do more time,” said Tanya Parker, John’s sister.
Judy Parker will be eligible for parole in 2024. Daniel Hicks was released from prison in January of 2016. Christina Grabski died of a drug overdose in August of 2013, after she was released from prison.