EL CAMINO — Sheryl "Sherry" Hahn Parker was a mother of two teen-age girls, a payroll clerk for Larimer County and a wife.
Now she's a
statistic — one of the worst kinds of statistics: She was murdered and her killer remains free.
The 41-year-old Parker was reported missing July 18, 1996.
Eight days later,
her beaten body was found floating in the St. Vrain River near the Sekich gravel pit, more than two miles away from the Del Camino Budget Host Motel she had checked into the night of July 17.
The Weld County Coroner's office determined Parker died of "blunt trauma." Few other details have been made public.
No murder weapon has been found.
According to a Weld County Sheriff's
Department report listing historical homicides, "Husband, Glenn Edward Parker is main suspect," the man Weld County investigators say Sheryl Parker was about to divorce.
Parker now lives
in Mead and is remarried to one of Sherry Parker's best friends, according to Sherry's family. He declined to comment for this story.
Parker hired an attorney immediately after his wife's body
was found, and investigators said he has refused to be interviewed about her death.
He has also fought the release of Sherry Parker's confidential counseling records in Larimer District
Court. A Larimer District judge, after reviewing those records, ruled they would not be beneficial to the investigation.
Weld County Sheriff's Investigator Al Price said Ed Parker has
never called investigators to ask about the progress of the case — to find out if investigators are getting close to solving his first wife's murder.
"There are people out there who know more
than they're willing to share. Why wouldn't they?" asked Charlotte Hahn, Sherry's mother, who lives in Fort Collins.
Parker's sister, Linda Workman of Masonville, said, "I'm real
skeptical that it will ever be solved."
"Let's put it this way," Hahn said. "I don't think it will ever be prosecuted."
Sherry's family said they first felt victimized by the
murder of their loved one.
Now they said they feel victimized by the Weld County District Attorney's office, which they say refuses to file murder charges against a suspect because there is
no "smoking gun."
The family said that the Weld County District Attorney's office has told them there is not enough direct evidence — no known witnesses, no murder weapon and no signed
confession — to charge anyone with the murder.
Yet the Weld County Sheriff's Department has 12 volumes of information about the investigation.
They have a suspect and a
motive. But that is not enough, said Weld County District Attorney Al Dominguez.
Dominguez, while not speaking directly to the Parker case, said there simply are some cases that may never be
solved unless more information is known.
Dominguez compares difficult unsolved murder cases to a puzzle of a tiger. "I don't have to have all the pieces for you to tell me it's a tiger," he
said. "But if I don't have enough, you can't tell me it's a tiger.
"Here's the thing: People who commit crimes, they are trying to hide the pieces of the tiger. We always come in after the
fact," he said.
"If there are 300 million some-odd people in this country, where do you start?"
He continued, "Freedom is the key word. Don't take people's freedom away unless
you can prove it. Defense attorneys make us jump through all these hoops, then we let a jury decide.
"On a murder case, I'd rather wait and gamble that something's going to break as opposed to
taking it to court and losing it forever," Dominguez said.
The Hahns disagree.
They would rather the district attorney's office give it all they've got and let a jury decide
before more time elapses, evidence is lost and fresh memories fade.
The Hahns said they believe Dominguez is taking the safe route, politically, to protect his position as D.A. By not
prosecuting a high-profile murder case, he doesn't have to take a chance of losing, they said.
"The word is out. He's non-aggressive," said Don Hahn, Sheryl's father.
think that one person should be allowed to make the decision that we can't try this case," said Charlotte Hahn.
"The D.A.'s office didn't even really work with the sheriff's investigators,"
Dominguez "said it was his office's job to prosecute, not investigate. I would find it hard to prosecute a case if you're not familiar with the evidence."
patience left to hide her frustrations, she said "this case was totally handled wrong. It was a mess from the beginning. We didn't even get autopsy results for six months because the medical examiner went on
some kind of African safari."
The Hahns are bitter after watching months of mishaps.
When Sherry was first reported missing, her husband found her car in the parking lot of a
Del Camino motel. She checked into the motel after having a fight with her husband, reports indicate. The car was released to him without ever being searched, according to police reports.
weeks later, when Parker's body was found, her car was confiscated by police but no fingerprints were found, the Hahns said.
Even Sherry Parker's motel room was not searched for weeks after
she — and many others — had already stayed there, police reports indicated.
Weld Sheriff's Investigator Al Price said it is important to note that Parker was initially reported as
a missing person. Procedures that are followed in a missing person's report are different from procedures in a homicide investigation, Price said.
credit card companies refused to provide information. US West refused to provide phone records. "They just didn't want to cooperate," Charlotte Hahn said.
"I never imagined that some companies
would refuse to give valuable and critical information to the police. This is someone who's been killed."
And it was by accident that Charlotte Hahn discovered four years ago that her
granddaughters, then 18 and 15, were being counseled in high school, at their father's request, for their mother's "suicide," Hahn said.
Charlotte Hahn demanded that the girls be told the
truth: Their mother was murdered.
"Something like this rips the family apart," Charlotte Hahn said. "You could just see the girls going down the tubes and you couldn't even contact them. For a
long time, we didn't even know where they were living."
The Hahns said they share the same horrible feelings. "We're always on edge," Charlotte said. "Knowing what you know and not being able
to do a thing about it — I can see why people go out and do terrible things."
"The law doesn't protect the innocent. It's protecting the suspect," she said.