Bond set at $50,000 for Gagnon, convicted of 2005 double murder in Horry County

troot@thesunnews.comFebruary 14, 2013 

— Richard Gagnon, who is awaiting a new trial in a 2005 double slaying, remained jailed Thursday night after a circuit court judge set a bail for him of $50,000.

Circuit Court Judge Carmen T. Mullen told Gagnon she had concerns about setting a bond for the 40-year-old, who has been jailed for eight years after he was previously convicted in the deaths of Diane and Charles Parker Sr., both found shot to death April 12, 2005, in their home off S.C. 90 near S.C. 22.

Gagnon was sentenced to serve two life sentences on two counts of murder and 30 years in prison for first-degree burglary in the incident.

But, Gagnon requested a new trial last fall citing new evidence in his case.

In January, Circuit Court Judge Steven John ruled that Gagnon deserved a new trial following testimony from Robert Troy Taylor, who was convicted on unrelated charges in Georgetown County and had served time in prison alongside Robert Mullins.

According to Taylor, Mullins said he lied about Gagnon when he insinuated in court that Gagnon had confessed to his part in the murders. John ruled that Taylor’s testimony was new evidence and met the criteria to grant Gagnon a new trial.

On Thursday, Mullen asked that prosecutors and Gagnon’s appeals attorney, Bob Dudek, chief appellate defender with the Commission of Indigent Defense, agree on a person or law enforcement agency that Gagnon will check in with while on bond awaiting his next trial.

“I want someone to lay eyes on him. That’s my concern,” Mullen said.

When questioned by Mullen, 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said Gagnon’s case would not be called for trial for at least eight months and it would be about three months before he would decide if the case would move forward for prosecution.

Mullen told Richardson she wanted an update in April if Gagnon will be retried and when, and if Gagnon has not posted bond at that time she will reduce his bail to a personal recognizance bond.

Dudek submitted two affidavits from people who offered to house Gagnon and help him obtain employment if he is released on bond. Those people lived in a beach town in Horry County and Pennsylvania, but they were not identified during the hearing.

“I’ve done this for 23 years . . . Richard Gagnon is only one of two clients that I’ve thought were truly innocent,” Dudek said during the hearing. Gagnon has been jailed for eight years and “I really think that’s a travesty of justice.”

Gagnon told Mullen that he could adjust to being outside of prison again, if given the opportunity.

“In eight years I’ve had no write-ups. I’ve had no issues where I had to be restrained. My mind is sound. I’m just ready to please go home,” Gagnon said. I’ll do anything you want within reason, just please give me a chance.” But Diane Parker’s sister, Carolyn Chapman, told Mullen she is concerned that if released on bail, Gagnon will flee.

“I know with everything in me he’s guilty,” Chapman said.

Billy Mills, Diane Parker’s brother, said it would be difficult for authorities to keep track of Gagnon if he was allowed to go to Pennsylvania.

“We just think he should stay here at the beach until the new trial comes to start,” Mills said.

Gagnon’s appeal was heard by the S.C. Court of Appeals after the conviction of Bruce Antwain Hill, 27, of Tabor City, N.C. in September 2011. Hill was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole and 30 years on a first-degree burglary charge, with those sentences running concurrently.

Horry County police charged Hill in 2009 after his DNA sample, which was taken when he was committed to the Tennessee Department of Corrections to serve a seven-year prison sentence, was uploaded into a national database and linked to the Parkers’ deaths, according to authorities.

Hill is serving a sentence in Tennessee after he pleaded guilty to robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery in connection with a Nov. 15, 2006, incident there. His sentence is expected to be up in 2014.

Hill was returned to Horry County in October, but he invoked his Fifth Amendment right and refused to testify in Gagnon’s appeal.

Gagnon, who had dated Diane Parker’s daughter, Bambi Bennett, has denied playing a role in the slayings and during a hearing in September Gagnon denied knowing Hill.

Bennett also was charged in the deaths of her mother and stepfather, but prosecutors later dropped those charges. She also denied knowing Hill.

Prosecutors linked Gagnon to the crimes after blood was found on Gagnon’s shoes, which was linked to Charles Parker Sr.

But Gagnon said he got the blood on his shoes after he went inside the Parkers home after police and crime scene had left and removed crime scene tape.

Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or follow her at Twitter.com/tonyaroot.

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