Historic City News editor Michael Gold was notified earlier today that, yesterday morning at about 7:00 a.m., Thomas E Desherlia, the man who murdered St Augustine Beach deputy marshal Ronald A. Parker, has died in prison. He has been in custody at Union County Correction Institute since April 1975.
Desherlia was 68-years-old; he would have turned 69 had he lived until December 19th.
According to the Department of Corrections, the inmate was receiving medical care of an undisclosed illness at an undisclosed facility; that information is protected by federal privacy rules contained in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.
“His death was determined to be of natural causes,” a representative in the public affairs office told Historic City News. “Because of his age and general health condition, there was no indication of foul play.”
In the early minutes of Sunday January 12, 1975, Desherlia shot and killed Parker with a .45 caliber handgun while Parker sat in the driver’s seat of his patrol car stopped in front of what was then the Sheraton Inn near the St Johns County Pier at St Augustine Beach.
Desherlia was convicted of first-degree murder (life sentence), aggravated assault with intent to commit a felony (15 years) and carrying a concealed firearm (5 years). The Department of Corrections in Montgomery Alabama also had a detainer, which would have prevented his release. At the time of the murder, Parker was 27-years-old. Desherlia was 30-years-old.
Parker’s widow, Brenda Parker, who has remarried and lives in Georgia, has kept watch over Desherlia’s parole hearing dates; returning to Florida to attend every one during the past 14 years. Desherlia’s last parole hearing was December 2012.
Gold spoke with Brenda, this afternoon; she was on the road, traveling back to Atlanta, but had received word of Desherlia’s death. “I had to call Daphnee, the victim’s advocate who has been with me for so long, just to be sure it was true,” she said.
“Once I was sure, I called Ron’s sisters to give them the news,” she said. “I don’t want people to think we are celebrating, or that this murderer’s death gives me closure — it doesn’t. I have to carry the pain of his crimes with me every day of my life.”
Nor, does Desherlia’s death diminish Brenda’s busy schedule.
“There is one less parole hearing for me to go to, but I go to parole hearings in support of a lot of other victims as well,” she said. “I will continue to return to St Augustine Beach for the annual memorial ceremony at Ron Parker Park, so long as my health holds up.”
Brenda says she also has a lot of happy memories of St Augustine and she has met many new friends during her travels here through the years.