Tears flowed in court Tuesday morning as a victim and her family recalled their deep emotional wounds during the sentencing of Jeffrey Parish, a 65-year-old man who pleaded no contest in August to child molestation and other charges.
Parish received the maximum possible time in the case — 10 years and eight months in prison.
He eluded law enforcement for nearly two decades after molesting a 4-year-old Carpinteria girl in 1994, and he 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 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 Department’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 Department’s Office Felony Fugitive Unit and FBI agents began re-examining 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 at the Santa Barbara County Jail when he arrived back in the United States.
Parish, who appeared in court Tuesday wearing an orange and blue jumpsuit, nodded and listened as the family aired their grievances. Judge Clifford Anderson ruled that cameras were not allowed to photograph Parish or the family in the courtroom.
The young girl he molested in 1994 appeared in court Tuesday, not as a victim of abuse but as a brave 22-year-old woman, now a mother herself, who said she had waited for this day to come.
Brooke Parkinson, who gave permission after the court appearance for reporters to publish her name, said through tears that when she was younger, she prayed she would never have to see Parish’s face again.
“Seeing you now face to face is happiness and closure,” she told Parish, sitting just feet away from her in handcuffs, and said her case being reopened was “a true blessing from God.”
Parkinson said she knew, even as a 4-year-old, that she could go to her parents with the truth about what happened to her.
“My heart breaks when I think about all the other children you have hurt and scarred,” she told Parish. “I forgive you, but this is not for you. This is for me and my 4-year-old self.”
Parkinson said she has a “wonderful life” these days, but that she was happy to know that Parish will be in prison.
Parkinson’s mother, Trudy Olmstead, also spoke, saying the day the family found out about the abuse, “the world as I knew it stopped.”
The family had just sat down to dinner when “our little daughter blurted out, ‘I’m not doing that anymore, I don’t like it,’” Olmstead recalled. Brooke told her parents that Parish had forced her to suck on his genitals, and not to tell her parents.
Olmstead was shocked.
“I have never again looked at a friend and a neighbor the same way,” she said. After the incident, “my child lived fear of your return,” Olmstead told Parish.
Olmstead and her family quoted the Bible multiple times, saying that God’s judgment would ultimately be waiting for Parish.
“God knows the whole truth. It is he who will be the ultimate and final judge in your life,” she told Parish, adding that the family was moving “forward to a brighter and happier future.”
Parkinson’s sister, Karalee Olmstead Lifferth, also spoke, and said the family has waited for this day to arrive, “where we get to see you handcuffed without a chance of running.”
She recalled Parish asking the children to come over to play with his son, and Parish would repeatedly expose himself. She said she was too young to fully process what was happening, and said she wished she could go back to try to prevent what occurred to her sister.
Rick Olmstead, Brooke’s father, said he couldn’t find closure.
“I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the court, but 10 years for this kind of crime ... You’ve got to be kidding me,” he told the court. “That’s not justice to me, or to my family.”
He thanked law enforcement officials who worked on the cold case with the Sheriff’s Department and FBI to track down Parish. Olmstead painted Parish as “modern-day coward” who abandoned his wife, son and mother to flee the country after his crime.
The family still lives across the street from Parish’s former home, and Olmstead said seeing it everyday is a painful reminder.
“Several times you asked me if my daughter could come over,” he told Parish, wiping away tears. “How stupid of me was that to trust you. ... It’s like a sore that never heals.”
Prosecutor Ben Ladinig read letters from two of Parish’s other victims during Tuesday’s sentencing. One man wrote that Parish had also abused him when he was 4 years old, and that his parents could sense that something was wrong. The man wrote that he felt Parish should spend 20 years to life in prison, and should receive treatment.
Another woman, identified as Jane Doe 2, said that though her abuse occurred 35 years ago, “I can still remember trembling every time he touched me.” She called Parish a “monster from my childhood,” and said now that she is a mother herself, she won’t allow anyone to watch her children.
Because of the statute of limitations, Jane Doe 2’s case could not be prosecuted.
“Unfortunately, it is too late for our story,” she said of herself and other earlier victims of Parish.
Ladinig lamented that the statute of limitations had run out for people like Jane Doe 2, who he said had been molested by Parish 20 times over a four year period from 1976 to 1980.
“Being a father to a daughter myself, it’s hard to listen to what Mr. Parish did,” Ladinig told the court, his voice breaking with emotion.
Parish himself was also given a chance to speak, and he asked Parkinson and her family to stand up as he spoke to them. He began crying and apologizing to them.
“I’m not that same person,” he said, adding that he had given himself to God and was there to “do the right thing.”
“Please forgive me, I’m so sorry,” he told the family before he was led out of the courtroom.
After the sentencing, Parkinson and her mother held hands as they spoke to reporters in the hallway outside the courtroom.
Parkinson said she was grateful that Parish had addressed her and her family, and Olmstead said the pair were going public for all of the other victims who were not in court Tuesday, so “they can see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”