2 of 9 charged with Lawrence County woman’s murder sentenced to decades in prison

Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 10:26 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The first of nine people charged with killing a Lawrence County woman in August 2020 learned their fate this week.

Gary Hunter Jr., 23, was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Diona Parks, 26, was sentenced to 30 years.

Investigators believe the group of nine people, ranging in age from 18 to 47-years-old, were part of a local gang. It took more than a week to capture all of them. They say they didn’t find a motive for the shootings but do believe drugs played a role in the crime.

Lawrence County Prosecutor Don Trotter says Hunter and Parks faced the death penalty. They took a deal to spare their lives instead.

“It was just a perfect storm of bad things happening,” said Trotter.

Investigators say 28-year-old Sarah Pasco and another woman, who was never identified, were kidnapped, thrown in a car, and taken to a remote location near the town of Miller. Pasco was shot first in the head. It killed her instantly. The second woman was shot but pretended to be dead until their suspected kidnappers left. She managed to crawl out of the well they were forced into and found help from a nearby neighbor.

Eventually, nine faced first-degree murder and first-degree assault among other charges. Some faced the death penalty. Trotter says he’s been working on plea deals to expedite a resolution to avoid death penalty proceedings.

“It’s extremely expensive on the court. Plus the fact that all of the defendants except for one took responsibility right from the start,” he said.

Tuesday Hunter and Parks pleaded guilty first.

“A life sentence in Missouri is 30 years. Mr. Hunter got 10 years more than the life sentence. Miss Parks pled out 5 years more than a life sentence,” said Trotter.

He says this outcome eliminates their chances for a delay in proceedings or appeals.

“It is final. This is the final thing. We know what they’re going to do. We know where they’re going to be,” explained Trotter.

Steven Calverely, 30, is the only other suspected killer to face the death penalty.

Trotter says the others, Andrew Cypret, 27, Lyle Delong, 23, Siera Dunham, 18, Christina Knapp, 38, Kimberly Henderson, 47, and Frank Sheridan, 27, played a lesser role in the crime but are expected to receive hefty sentences.

“We’ll keep this community safe from the people who committed this crime,” said Trotter.

He says he’s working out the plea deals for all the others charged and expects their cases to be resolved soon. That includes Frank Sheridan, who pleaded guilty and will testify against the other defendants, in exchange for a suspended imposition of his sentence. Prosecutor Trotter said that Sheridan’s involvement in the homicide was very limited.

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