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MAN GETS LIFE IN PRISON FOR SPARTA MURDER

MAN GETS LIFE IN PRISON FOR SPARTA MURDER

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CHESTER - A former law enforcement officer will spend the remainder of his life behind bars after pleading guilty to murder charges for the second consecutive day in two separate court appearances.

Ryan Parker pleaded guilty Monday in Madison County for the Jan. 5 killing of Granite City florist Howard "Ed" Kirby Jr., 48. On Tuesday Parker, 24, stood before a Randolph County judge to admit his guilt in the Dec. 18 slaying of Randa Clarkson, 39, of Sparta, during the robbery of Main Street Video in Sparta.

It was after Parker's February arrest that prosecutors for Madison County said they would seek the death penalty in the case, a decision that was changed in an agreement for the guilty pleas. State law allows the death penalty to be used in cases in which a murder is committed in the course of another felony, such as armed robbery.

Prosecutors noted during the course of the investigation and following proceedings that neither of Parker's killings was necessary to carry out the robberies.

"He will spend the rest of his life in jail," said Stephaniee Smith, spokeswoman for the Madison County State's Attorney's office. "There is no chance of parole here."

It was on Feb. 9, just hours after his arrest that Parker confessed to the killings of Kirby and Clarkson. It was a confession that left authorities with no satisfaction as to motive.

According to the confessions, Parker said he had gone into Kirby's flower shop, Floral Original Designs, to purchase peach colored roses for his girlfriend and became angry when Kirby made him wait while he finished a telephone call.

An argument ensued, which was followed by a brief struggle before Parker shot Kirby in the back of the head. Parker then stole $40 from the store's cash register and Kirby's wallet.

In the Clarkson murder, Parker said he had entered the video store in search of a specific movie, which the store clerk reportedly stated she liked too. Parker shot Clarkson in the head before removing $50 from the cash register.

Parker was taken into custody by Missouri police after they realized that someone was using Clarkson's credit card on a daily basis since her death.

Parker, the stepson of Sparta Police Chief Alan Young, worked in law enforcement for several years, first in the Randolph County jail and later as an intern with the Illinois Department of Corrections assigned to the Joliet Correctional Center. He left that job for a position with the Okawville Police Department. He left that department after working there only three months.

It was the 9 mm handgun he had bought for his part-time job with the Okawville department that was used to kill Kirby and Clarkson.

linda.krutsinger@thesouthern.com / 618-529-5454 x15076

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