Jury panel in 2015 smothering death finalized

Becky Campbell • Updated Apr 25, 2017 at 9:17 AM

Attorneys in a first-degree murder case seated a jury Monday afternoon, and the trial will begin Tuesday morning.

Aaron Garland, 23, of Elizabethton, faces first-degree felony murder and robbery charges in the August 2015 smothering death of 59-year-old Karen Parker inside her Nathaniel Drive apartment. He’s the the first of two men charged with the crime. Dallas Sarden, 24, of Greeneville, will be tried later this year.

Garland’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Bill Francisco, and Assistant District Attorneys General Ken Baldwin and Fred Lance spent several hours questioning potential jurors about their experiences, presenting hypothetical crime scenarios and explaining what responsibilities lie with a jury panel.

Parker was found at her residence, 1740 Nathaniel Drive, Apt. 24,  by a maintenance worker. Police said she was smothered to death. As the investigation into Parker’s death began, police determined that her bank debit card was being used at several locations in Kingsport. By the time police tracked the use of the card to Garland and Sarden, they were being held on unrelated charges in Kingsport.

In a statement that jurors will hear during this week’s trial, Garland told a Johnson City police investigator that Sarden had been staying with him in September 2015 and came in one day with a credit card he told Garland he’d stolen. When the investigator revealed that the woman to whom the card belonged was dead, Garland denied any knowledge of the murder.

State prosecutors listed 22 potential witnesses in the case while the defense offered the names of six possible witnesses. The jury panel consists of nine men and five women. Garland faces life in prison if he’s convicted of the charges. He remains jailed on $100,000 bond.

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