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Jury finds 2nd man guilty in Johnson City murder

Becky Campbell • Updated Apr 12, 2018 at 4:57 PM

A Washington County trial jury spent about three hours deliberating Thursday before convicting a Greeneville man in a 2015 suffocation murder.

Dallas Sarden, 25, was the second man convicted in the death of 59-year-old Karen Parker. She was found dead in her Clark Manor apartment Aug. 18, 2015, when two maintenance workers entered her residence for routine pest control.

“(Assistant District Attorney) Fred Lance and I are very pleased with the jury verdict,” District Attorney General Ken Baldwin said. “The family has been waiting for two years and eight months to see and hear the justice of the jury. Today was their day.”

As the jury announced its verdict, Sarden put his head down on the defense table and quietly sobbed while Parker’s family held hands and dealt with their own tears.

Sarden and a friend, Aaron Garland, were arrested in Kingsport several days after Parker’s death after police tracked them through the use of Parker’s stolen debit card. Garland stood trial last year and was also convicted of first-degree murder and robbery. He’s serving life in prison, which is the same sentence Sarden will have. Sarden’s jury spent more than twice the time deliberating as the earlier jury did on Garland’s case.

"We are obviously terribly disappointed in the outcome, but we respect the jury’s work on this case and there will obviously be a motion for new trial and, absent any relief on that, a subsequent appeal,” Patrick Denton, Sarden’s court-appointed attorney, said after Thursday’s verdict.

Sarden testified on Wednesday that he was with Garland several days — including the two days leading up to and the two days after Parker’s death — and was with at Parker’s residence the night she died. But Sarden testified he never went inside Parker’s apartment because Parker had thrown the two men out of her home two days before. He said he didn’t know until much later that Garland had killed Parker and stolen $50 in cash, a debit card, and a Walmart gift card.

It was the use of that $50 birthday Walmart card as well as Parker’s debit card that allowed police to track the men down in Kingsport.

After their arrest, a Johnson City police investigator went to interview both men. He started videoing the interviews on his iPad, but said the device “timed out” and cut off during the recording, which left jurors with an incomplete video to watch. The video was presented to the jury when former JCPD Investigator Justin Adams testified. It shows a distraught Sarden telling Adams “I played my part,” and “this is real life.” Adams said Sarden told him his DNA would not be found on Parker’s neck, but would be found on the pillow. In fact, Sarden’s DNA was not found.

When District Attorney General Ken Baldwin asked Adams if he had discussed details of the murder with Sarden, Adams said he had not and had not discussed the pillow as the murder weapon on his own. Although the last part of Sarden’s 2015 statement was not recorded on the video, the state had Kingsport Police Officer Gerald Ray, who happened to be near the room where Adams interviewed Sarden, testify and corroborate the account Adams gave.

Sarden said Adams misinterpreted what he meant in the 2015 statement. Sarden said what he meant by “I played my part” was that he unwittingly stood outside as a lookout while Parker was killed. Sarden said he talked about the DNA on the pillow because when Garland finally told him about the killing, he said Sarden’s DNA will be found in the apartment and he would be sent to prison also.

Sarden rejected a plea offer from prosecutors that would have given him a 40-year sentence. With the life sentence, Sarden must serve 51 years before becoming eligible for parole. He also faces additional time for the robbery conviction, but it’s likely to be rolled into the life sentence. Garland received an additional five years on the robbery conviction, but it was concurrent to the life sentence. Garland was ordered to serve an additional four years on two violation of probation charges. He’s serving that sentence before his life term begins.

Sarden’s sentencing on the robbery will be July 26.

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Reported at 1:55 p.m. Thursday:

A Washington County jury Thursday convicted the second of two men charged with killing a woman in a Johnson City housing development in 2015.

Dallas Sarden, 25, was convicted of first-degree murder and robbery in the Aug. 17, 2015, slaying of Karen Parker, 59, in her Nathaniel Drive Apartment. His co-defendant, Aaron Garland, was convicted last year and is serving a life sentence.

Parker, 59, was found dead inside her Nathaniel Drive apartment on Aug. 18, 2015, by a maintenance worker and Terminex employee when the men arrived for routine pest control. She had been smothered and left lying on the floor, her head covered with a pillow and blanket and the corner of the on top of her leg.

Keep visiting JohnsonCityPress.com for more on this developing story.

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