A former fugitive who eluded law enforcement for nearly two decades pleaded no contest to child-molestation and other charges Thursday, and will be sentenced to more than 10 years in prison.
Jeffrey Reed Parish, 65, who was accused of molesting a 4-year-old Carpinteria girl in 1994, entered no-contest pleas to three felonies: a lewd act with a child under age 14, oral copulation with a person under age 16, and failure to appear on a felony charge while out on bail. He also pleaded to enhancements alleging “substantial sexual conduct” and relating to his failure to appear.
Parish appeared Thursday before Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Clifford R. Anderson III.
Under the plea agreement, Parish will receive the maximum possible sentence in the case, 10 years and 8 months in prison, according to Deputy District Attorney Ben Ladinig. Parish will have to serve at least half that time before being eligible for release, he added.
A no-contest plea is not an admission of guilt, but is treated like a conviction or guilty plea for purposes of punishment.
“We’re very thankful,” Ladinig told Noozhawk. “It’s the best case scenario.”
Parish fled the country shortly after being arrested and posting bail in 1994. Since then, his whereabouts had eluded law enforcement, and he remained on the sheriff’s Top 10 Most Wanted List.
Earlier this year, however, Parish was arrested after he was extradited from Guatemala. That arrest came after the sheriff’s Office Felony Fugitive Unit and FBI agents began to reexamining Parish’s case, and received new information that he was living in Panajachel, a small town in Guatemala.
That information was passed on to FBI agents in the region, who coordinated with Guatemalan authorities and Parish was arrested without incident. He was immediately deported and placed in custody in Santa Barbara County Jail when he arrived back in the United States.
Parish will be sentenced Oct. 16 and Ladinig said that the hearing will give the chance for Parish’s victims to speak publicly.
Investigators believe Parish molested at least four other children, Ladinig said, but were unable to charge him in those cases because the statute of limitations has passed. However, they also will be allowed to testify at the sentencing hearing, he said.