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Year in Review: Law Enforcement

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Richard Parker is escorted out of the courtroom after he entered a guilty plea in the murders of Jon and Marion Setzer. DALLUS WHITFIELD / The Wilson Post

Fear and grief struck the community on Monday, Feb. 10, when an explosive device detonated and took the life of Lebanon resident Jon Setzer, 74, at his home on 576 Vance Lane and inflicted mortal wounds to his wife, Marion Setzer, 72.

Initially, little was known about the cause of the explosion. A press conference held at the Wilson County Sheriff's Department on Tuesday, Feb. 11 informed media that Mr. Setzer had been pronounced dead at the scene and Mrs. Setzer was transported by LifeFlight to Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan was joined by Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwynn and said they could not release other details, but Gwynn asked that the public be "vigilant" during the investigation. An $8,000 reward was offered for information pertaining to the explosion.

Mrs. Setzer passed away at Vanderbilt on Wednesday, Feb. 12 from what the Medical Examiner found to be "severe thermal injuries." A day later her son-in-law, Richard Parker, was arrested in relation to the explosion.

Parker was held in the Wilson County Jail until being moved to Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.

Parker appeared for a motions hearing in Judge John Wootten Jr.'s Wilson County courtroom on Feb. 18 where he pleaded "not guilty" to the two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of premediated first-degree murder and unlawful possession of a prohibited weapon. During the hearing, Wootten had commented that he hoped to move the case along swiftly.

Wootten reiterated these thoughts at a second motions hearing in early April and set a trial date for Tuesday, Oct. 28.

Parker next appeared before Judge Wootten on Tuesday, Aug. 5, for what many expected to be a motions hearing leading up to the Oct. 28 trial date. Parker, represented by Public Defenders Bill Cather and John Gholston, entered guilty pleas on two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of his in-laws and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Assistant District Attorney Jimmy Lea, joined by Brian Fuller, presented a summary of Parker's actions leading up to the murders in court after Parker's signed guilty plea, dated July 31, 2014, was presented to Wootten.

Facts given by Lea reported that on Monday, Feb. 10 between 4:30-5 p.m., the Setzer's grandson, David Parker, son of Richard Parker, heard an explosion and saw flames coming from his grandparents' home. He and Parker attempted to save Mrs. Setzer - in fact, Parker carried her outside and held her on the swing.

Sheriff's Deputy Eric Rollins, one of the first responders on the scene, had said Mrs. Setzer told him they received a package with a lamp and a note attached suggesting that they plug the lamp in.

Surveillance footage from a Gallatin Walmart store showed that on Friday, Feb. 7, Parker purchased items used in relations to packaging the explosive device, including a box, lampshade and 24-by-24 packing paper.

Although Parker initially claimed he "had no idea who would have done this," Lea said that in a following interview Parker voluntarily admitted to purchasing these items as well as can of gunpowder over time, since there are regulations on how much can be purchased at once. Parker assembled the package to resemble one from FedEx. Investigators uncovered documents that Parker owed the Setzers a substantial amount of money - which was believed to be a possible motive for the crime.

Police chief fired by Lebanon mayor
Former Lebanon Police Chief Scott Bowen was dismissed for the position on Wednesday, Dec. 10 in what his attorney Keith Williams, partner at Lannom & Williams, called a "political firing."

Bowen received word of his removal as chief via email from Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead, while on sick leave. In a separate email sent to media outlets on Dec. 10, Craighead gave no reason for the dismissal but said he believe the decision to be in the best interest of the city.

City Attorney Andy Wright told another publication in mid-December that Bowen had been fired for withholding information from the mayor regarding Lebanon Public Safety's use of the Tennessee and Federal Bureau of Investigation's databases.

"Scott Bowen was following the law and got fired for it," Williams claimed.

Williams said their position was that Bowen was terminated for sticking to a National Crime Information Center user agreement he personally signed.

"The agreement they are referring to is one where police officers can punch into a database and look up criminal history, run tags, things like that," he explained. "But someone has to be in harge. There is an agreement that Scott Bowen had to sign making himself personally liable to make sure everyone under him follows the rules. In order to do that, he can only allow people to use it he can hire and fire."

Williams added that a city charter change in May made Lebanon Public Safety its own department - a department that Bowen was not overseeing.

Although Williams said they were seeking an amicable resolution - at year's end the resolution had not been found. Williams told The Wilson Post on Dec. 30 they were in the process of setting up a hearing.

The city has hired outside attorney David Veile to represent the city in the upcoming disciplinary appeal hearing at the price of $200 per hour.

Burglaries remain unsolved in Mt. Juliet
Two armed men wearing masks and gloves robbed a SaveALot in Mt. Juliet on Dec. 11.

According to reports, the men demanded the clerk give them all of the money.

On Sunday, Dec. 14, thieves sawed a hole in the roof of Prestige Pawn & Jewelry to gain access and stole more than $200,000 worth of jewelry.

On Nov. 21, the Walgreens on Mt. Juliet Road was the target of an armed robbery - during store hours.

Although citizens have cause to be alarmed, Mt. Juliet Police Department Lt. Tyler Chandler told The Wilson Post in an interview which ran Wednesday, Dec. 17, that crime was actually down.

"Overall crime is down this year from last, and we had more crime in 2006," he said, adding that in some part the more exposure of crime in Mt. Juliet makes it seem as if there's more.

"Some people feel crime has gone up due to our efforts to be more transparent and share information with the community. With social media and our public information program, we communicate more about what goes on."

Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at sgarrett@wilsonpost.com.

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