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Thursday, February 25, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Man Guilty Of Killing 2 Women In Shoreline -- Jurors Will Consider Death Or Life In Prison In Next Phase Of Trial

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

A King County Superior Court jury today found Robert Parker guilty of two counts of aggravated murder in the stabbing and strangulation of two Shoreline-area women in 1995.

Jurors, who listened to almost three months of testimony, deliberated four days before reaching a verdict. The trial now shifts to the penalty phase Monday, where jurors will decide whether Parker should receive the death penalty or spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Parker, 27, sat quietly in the packed courtroom as the court clerk read the verdict. One of his attorneys, Howard Phillips, stood next to him; another defense attorney, Ann Mahony, attempted to comfort him.

Relatives and friends of slain victims Renee Powell, 43, and Barbara Walsh, 53, hugged each other and wept softly in the courtroom upon hearing the verdict.

Outside the courtroom, Parker's mother sobbed, saying repeatedly, "Oh God, Oh God. I can't take him home. I can't take him home."

Parker's attorneys are likely to appeal the verdict.

Parker was charged with two counts of aggravated murder for the 1995 deaths of Powell and Walsh. Both women had been bound, gagged, strangled and stabbed. Items were stolen from their apartments, and the killer set several fires at both apartments. Powell was killed Feb. 24, 1995; and Walsh on March 25, 1995. At the time of the murders, Parker - who had a string of criminal arrests in his native Arkansas before moving to Seattle a few years later - lived 130 feet from Walsh and 150 yards from Powell.

Much of the testimony and evidence presented during the trial centered on DNA evidence and the testimony of Parker's former girlfriend, Princess Gray, who at first implicated him in the slayings, but recanted a short time later.

Co-prosecutors Regina Cahan and Donald Raz stressed to the jury the reliability of the DNA evidence, while the defense team of Mahony, Phillips and Marcus Naylor pointed to the unreliability of Gray's statements.

Prosecutors alleged blood with the defendant's DNA matched semen found on Powell; and that a single strand of hair, found in a towel in Walsh's bathroom, also belonged to the defendant.

But the defense told jurors the semen match was inaccurate and the hair was discovered more than a year after Walsh's slaying, and roughly two weeks after Parker's King County Jail cell was searched for contraband.

The last person sentenced to death in the state was James Elledge, 55, on Oct. 22, 1998. Elledge was convicted for the April 1998 stabbing and strangulation of Eloise Fitzner, 47, in the basement of a Lynnwood church.

The last execution in Washington was on Oct. 13, 1998, when Jeremy Sagastegui was put to death by lethal injection for the November 1995 murders of 3-year-old Keiven Sarbacher; the boy's mother, Mellisa Sarbacher, 21; and his mother's friend, Lisa Vera-Acevedo, 26.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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