John J. Parker hoped his bad choices wouldn't land him in prison, but a 3rd District judge Monday said a jury's conviction for murder stands for something. Parker, 23, Orem, was sentenced to five years to life.
Parker was convicted of stabbing Fortino Gonzalez, 21, to death in a Midvale apartment complex in a drug deal that went sour.Parker testified he fought back in self defense after Gonzalez, an illegal immigrant who'd been evicted from the complex earlier for drug dealing, accused him of being an undercover narcotics officer and slugged him in the face through a car window.
Judge David S. Young said the jury didn't believe that story and he doesn't buy it either.
"I heard the whole trial, all the evidence. I don't believe this was a self-defense case. And I don't believe the jury thought it was either," said Young, noting the jurors declined an option to convict Parker of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
"After you were struck in the face, you became the aggressor," Young said. "You got out of the car, you ran after him, and you stabbed him three times, the fatal stab wound being to the throat."
No weapon was found on Gonzalez, Young said, although he admitted one could have been removed by bystanders before police arrived "but I don't believe it was. This was a forthright, aggressive murder."
Young noted Parker was on probation from a California drug conviction when he got involved in the drug buy. That record doesn't recommend him for jail and more probation, Young said.
Parker's mother, Ruth, and father, Madison, spoke up for their son and Parker apologized for his actions last fall.
"I know this was bad choices that led up to this," Parker said. "I know this is something I will have to live with for the rest of my life."
Ruth Parker said her son made bad decisions but she knows he's basically a kind person with a good heart. He likes to help people and has made a practice of it, even in jail, she said.
According to testimony at Parker's March trial, he went to visit a friend in Orem Oct. 24 to collect a debt. While there, the friend and his brother decided to drive to the Alpine Apartment complex in Midvale to buy cocaine and Parker rode along.
During the transaction, Gonzalez and Parker began arguing and Gonzalez punched Parker, according to the testimony, after which Parker leaped out of the car's back seat, ran Gonzalez down, and stabbed him.