LEBANON, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee man pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges that he killed his mother- and father-in-law with a package bomb, and prosecutors said he killed the couple because he owed them tens of thousands of dollars.
Richard Parker entered the plea Tuesday in Wilson County Circuit Court in a deal that calls for him to serve life in prison without parole.
Parker is the son-in-law of Jon and Marion Setzer, who were killed after a package bomb exploded at their house in February. Parker lived directly behind them in rural Wilson County, which is about 30 miles east of Nashville.
Prosecutors also revealed a motive in the deaths, saying Parker owed the Setzers about $40,000.
Parker became emotional at times as prosecutors recounted details of the crime.
The blast killed 74-year-old Jon Setzer, a retired lawyer. His wife, 72-year-old Marion Setzer later died at a Nashville hospital from her injuries.
Video surveillance showed Parker buying items at a local Walmart to make the bomb.
"Today's admission of guilt guarantees the community the man responsible will never go free. We hope it also brings some small sense of justice to those who suffered such an unthinkable loss," said Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn during a press conference after the hearing.
Before his arrest, Parker sat for hours at Marion Setzer's bedside along with her other children, said Kevin Ulmet, senior pastor of the Nashville First Church of the Nazarene.
Parker's pastor said there was never any sign of trouble between the son-in-law and the Setzers.
Richard and his wife, Laura, were longtime members of the church, Ulmet said. The Setzers had been members for years before moving to Lebanon, but they still had close ties to the Nashville congregation, he said.
Marianna Rogers, a daughter of the victims, said their faith would get them through the circumstances.
"Our parents tried to share God's love and message of hope. The message they would want us to carry is that nothing, not even death, can stop the love of God," she said.
Parker had been in trouble before. In 1990, he burned down a home that he was supposed to be renovating. In that case, his father-in-law, who concentrated his practice around estates and trusts, helped represent him. Setzer's former law partner said the father-in-law helped because he didn't believe the arson charge was justified.
Parker served four years of probation and was ordered to pay $40,000 restitution.