MILLER COUNTY, Mo. — Gary Sweet, who murdered Jim and Sheri Parker in cold blood at Riverview RV Park in 2017, received news of his wife's death while in jail awaiting his sentence.
The Miller County Circuit Court scheduled Gary Sweet to face sentencing June 12 in the double homicide case. In March of 2019, Sweet entered an open plea on two counts of second-degree murder, one count of first-degree assault and one count of second-degree assault, acknowledging he killed Jim and Sheri Parker, who owned the RV park on the night of Nov. 8, 2017.
However, on or around Friday, June 7, Sweet's wife Sharon Sweet was found dead in her Rolla home. Prosecuting Attorney Ben Winfrey confirmed to LakeExpo.com on Friday that Sweet had been found deceased.
*UPDATE: The Rolla Police Department told LakeExpo.com no foul play was suspected in the death, and Sharon Sweet had been dead for a day or longer when her body was found in her home.
Sweet's hearing was still held on Wednesday, June 12, allowing the prosecution to make their case for sentencing and victims to give their impact statements, but there will be an additional hearing in which Sweet will be sentenced.
On Wednesday, Detective Boren with the Lake Ozark Police Department testified as to the extreme violence evident at the crime scene. Following the lead detective’s testimony, family and friends of the Parkers made the court aware of the impact the various live left behind by Sweet’s actions.
Those coming forward and reading their statements to the court included Calvin Walton, son of Sheri Parker. He talked about the constant depression he suffered after the murder of his mother. In a simple, powerful moment he said, “I lost my mom, there is no way to fix it.” Joseph Parker described the loss of his father, Jim Parker.
On the night the Parkers died, RV park resident Rick Smith received a gunshot wound also. Smith and his wife came forward while holding hands in mutual support. Smith read his statement describing the anguish in the aftermath of the crime. In addition to those reading statements to the court, several others submitted written statements describing the impact on their lives as they live with the loss of Jim and Sheri Parker. After the statements Winfrey presented a slide show prepared by the family with photographs depicting happier times as the Parkers were wed and celebrated with family members.
Throughout the victim impact statements, and the video, Sweet sat placidly, fingering the chain of his leg shackles. His face reflected no emotion as he stared at each speaker and then at the video display screen over the jury box.
Prior to sentence being imposed, the court requires a Sentencing Assessment Report (SAR) from the department of corrections. Judge Hamner found statements in Sweet’s interview with Probation and Parole officers that were inconsistent with his statements in court at the time the court accepted Sweet’s plea of guilty. Judge Hamner then discussed the discrepancies as an admission of guilt must be based on the defendant’s knowledge of the facts of the crime and understanding that the actions were wrong.
Sweet admitted guilt in court, but had told Probation and Parole that he did not recall some of the specific details of the night the victims died. Judge Hamner asked Sweet if he recalled the court inquiring about those events taking place on the evening of the crime and if Sweet recalled answering those questions in the affirmative. Sweet admitted to the Judge that he does recall answering questions about the crime. The judge explained that he did not want to move the sentencing forward only to have it appealed quickly because of this error.
Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Winfrey had previously amended the murder charges against Sweet down from first-degree to second-degree in return for the guilty pleas. In further consideration for the open plea Winfrey dismissed the associated charges of armed criminal action. According to sentencing guidelines in Missouri Statutes, Sweet could face a minimum of 70 years in prison for his crimes if given the maximum on each count, essentially ensuring he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Winfrey explained the penalty for second-degree murder is almost as long as first-degree and since it is classified as a violent crime, the defendant must serve 85 percent of the sentence before release. Winfrey further explained the open plea did not contain any agreement about sentence length. The State may ask for a maximum sentence on each count.
Sweet’s sentencing was delayed and set for July 19 at 1 p.m.
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