Assistant Beach Marshal Ron Parker was killed in the Line of Duty January 12, 1975, while investigating the minor crash of a vehicle, later verified to be stolen. Parker discovered the unoccupied vehicle in the St. Augustine Beach parking lot overlooking the Sheraton Inn pool.
The investigation led Parker into the cocktail longue to locate the driver, Thomas Edward Desherlia. When Parker escorted Desherlia out of the Sheraton and placed him into his patrol car for questioning, the prisoner partially freed himself and attacked Marshal Parker.
The trauma from the .45 caliber bullet was fatal. Parker’s left common carotid artery was severed, causing mortal injuries. Desherlia fought with Parker’s lifeless body to get him pulled clear from behind the steering wheel, but Parker’s heel broke off his boot and lodged behind the accelerator pad and floor board. He left Parker on the ground where the patrol car was parked then fled the scene driving the partially disabled patrol car.
Desherlia was eventually captured in a shootout on Anastasia Boulevard, was tried, convicted, and sentenced on April 29, 1975 to three charges; first-degree premeditated or attempted murder, sentenced to life in prison; aggravated assault with intent to commit a felony, received a 15-year sentence; and last, carrying concealed firearm for which he was sentenced to 5 additional years in prison. Desherlia died in the custody of Union County Correction Facility October 6, 2013 of “natural causes”. Brenda Parker continued to rally supporters and always made an appearance each time Desherlia was considered for parole. She spoke against parole or probation, doing so at each hearing until Desherlia’s death. Parker, who now lives in Georgia, returns to St Augustine each year for the remembrance ceremony.
Uniformed representatives from the following agencies participated, St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, St. Augustine Police Department, St. Johns County Fire Rescue, St. Augustine Beach Police Department, with an Honor Guard presentation led by First Coast Highlanders. This year the special guest speaker was Reverend Ronald Stafford, from New Mt. Moriah Christian Ministry, and a former Deputy Sheriff who served with Ron Parker in the 1970’s.