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Thursday, April 17, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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3 men testify, 17 years after girl's death

Seattle Times staff reporter

PORT ORCHARD — In 1986, three teenage boys told police they had seen a girl one day after authorities believe the girl was slain.

The boys never testified in the case, until yesterday. The exclusion of their testimony in the first capital-murder trial of Brian Keith Lord is part of the reason that Lord, now 42, was granted a new trial in the slaying of Tracy Parker, 16.

Now men in their mid-30s, the three witnesses were shaky on the details when they testified yesterday in Kitsap County Superior Court. Time and again they had to refer to police and investigator reports to remember what they had said years earlier.

"Do you recollect what day you told police you had seen Tracy?" asked deputy prosecutor Tim Drury. "No. Not unless it's in here," said Gregory Ayers, 35, a police officer with the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, as he pored over a statement he had once made.

According to those earlier statements, Ayers and friends Paul Holden and Bob Huff had been in Holden's car when they saw Parker, a schoolmate, walking along the side of the road on Sept. 17, 1986.

They called police a few days later, when they heard she had been reported missing but before her body had been found.

All three testified yesterday that they had been initially unsure of the date they saw Parker but after talking together they figured out that there was only one day that week they had all been together in the car.

"Paul called me and wanted to know if I had been in the car when we saw her, and I was," said Ayers. "And I was only in the car that day as opposed to the others."

They said they couldn't be as sure now, but 17 years ago, they did their best to describe what they saw and pinpoint when they saw it.

Parker, a North Kitsap High School student, had been reported last seen on Sept. 16 riding horses at a friend's house. She was found dead the next week.

Prosecutors claim that Lord, an itinerant carpenter who was working at the friend's house, offered to give Parker a ride home that night and then raped and killed her.

Lord was convicted of Parker's death and sentenced to die, but his conviction was overturned in 1997, when an appeals court ruled the defense had erred by not giving enough credence to the teens' claims of having seen Parker after prosecutors claimed she was killed.

A defense investigator had determined that discrepancies in the teenagers' statements made their statements unreliable.

In court yesterday, none of the three relished the spotlight. "It's a relief, in a way, to have it over," said Ayers. "We've been subpoenaed numerous times about this and we've been waiting for 17 years."

Defense attorneys said yesterday they expect the trial to last at least another week.

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