Conviction of Arsonist in Ohio LODD Upheld

The conviction of a man accused of arson and murder for the 2015 fire that killed Hamilton, Ohio firefighter Patrick Wolterman has been upheld by the Twelfth Appellate District Court of Appeals.

Lester Parker was charged with hiring his nephew, co-defendant William Tucker, to set fire to Parker’s home in order to collect the insurance proceeds. The evidence showed that Parker was deeply in debt and agreed to pay Tucker in oxycodone pills. The plan required Tucker to break into the home while Parker and his wife were vacationing out of state, take the pills, and set the fire in the basement.

Tucker set the fire on December 28, 2015. Firefighters entered the structure believing it to be occupied. Firefighter Wolterman fell through a weakened first floor into the basement where he perished. Following a nine-day trial, a jury found Parker and Tucker guilty of aggravated arson and felony murder. Each was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

Parker appealed his conviction raising six issues including: failure to have separate trials for himself and Tucker, lack of evidence to support the aggravated arson charge, failure to instruct the jury on lesser possible charges, lack of effective counsel at trial, prosecutorial misconduct, and the cumulative effect of errors that prejudiced his right to a fair trial. The Court of Appeals rejected each defense, upholding the verdict.

Here is a copy of the decision: State v. Parker_ 2019 Ohio App. LEXIS 873

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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