From 1978 to 1979 a series of home invasion murders of women in Orange County, California went unsolved. The boyfriend of one of the victims was arrested and sentenced to prison. However, it was only through the use of DNA profiling and a confession by another inmate over a decade later, that the real series of events became known.
The first murder occurred at about 12:35am on the 1 December 1978 when 17-year-old Sandra Kay Fry was bludgeoned, sexually assaulted and strangled to death in her Lincoln Arms apartment at South Knott Avenue in Anaheim. In his later confession, Parker told detectives that he remembered walking to the rear of Fry's apartment complex and found a window with the screen off. He said the window was slightly ajar and he entered the ground floor apartment armed with a 2x4 piece of lumber, approx 18-inches in length. Parker waited in the woman's living-room until she finished on the phone and attacked her from behind, clubbing her about the head several times and dragging her onto the bed.
Once he finished raping and murdering Fry he exited through the same window he had entered. Sandra Kay Fry had only moved into the apartment three days prior to her murder and had just completed her third day of work as a clerk at the Treasury Department Store. Kimberly Rawlins was 21-years-old and worked in the shipping department of the Shiley Medical Laboratory. She had been living in her new ground floor apartment on Avocado Street in Costa Mesa for less than 2 1/2 months when she was found dead on 1 April 1979. Like the previous victim she had been bludgeoned with a large piece of lumber and sexually assaulted.
The Bedroom Basher attacked another woman on 20 July 1979. Like the other victims, Jane Pettengill, 29, was alone in her ground floor apartment at Costa Mesa and had been attacked by someone who had bludgeoned and raped her. Pettengill survived her assault but could provide the police with no information about her attacker. As a result of the attack Pettengill underwent a tracheotomy and was required to breathe through a hole in her throat and speak with an implanted voice box. She later moved out of the area and changed her name.
The fourth victim was Marolyn Kay Carleton, a 31-year-old widow, who also lived in the Costa Mesa Apartments on Avocado Street. She taught self-actualisation courses from her apartment at the time of her murder. On the 14 September 1979, the Bedroom Basher entered Charleton's ground floor apartment, who according to reports at the time, did not lock her door or windows the night she was attacked and proceeded to sexually assault and bludgeon her to death. However there was a witness to this crime, the victim's 9-year-old son was present during the assault and saw the killer leave. Parker, who would later remember that the little boy had asked him, "What's wrong with Mommy?", had walked straight towards the boy, but said nothing and just walked out the door whilst very gently moving the boy aside.
A month after the murder the police had very little evidence and no suspect, so they decided to hypnotise the young boy to see if they could achieve a better composite of the killer. Their efforts at hypnosis were unsuccessful and although the killings remained unsolved, the composite was distributed throughout Costa Mesa and described the killer as strongly built, 5ft 10ins tall, 25-30 years old with an olive complexion and pock marks on his cheeks. Investigators noticed that the bludeoning of the victims was extensive, with one Detective describing it as "overkill".
Dianna Aiello, 24 was 9 months pregnant when she was attacked on 30 September 1979 in her Costa Mesa apartment. On the evening of the attack on Dianna, her and her then husband Kevin Green had an argument. She would later reveal in court that Green had beaten her during this argument and left her semi-conscious before leaving their Tustin apartment. Not long after Gerald Parker had then entered the ground floor apartment and struck Dianna with a piece of 2x4 lumber and then sexually assaulted her, leaving her for dead. Dianna survived the attack but was left in a coma. When she emerged from the coma she did not initially know that she had lost her baby or even that she had been pregnant at all. It was only later she learned that due to the ferocity of the attack, she had lost her unborn child, who she named Chantal after a childhood pen pal she had from France.
Initially investigators believed the attack on D'Aiello may have been linked to the five Bedroom Basher murders in Orange County, but eventually they shifted their focus to Green. Kevin Green, a serving Marine, was later arrested for the assault on his wife, who had no recollection of the assault by Parker. He would be remanded in custody and charged for the attack his wife and the murder of their unborn child. Meanwhile the murders in Orange County continued.
Although she had significant memory loss, Dianna testified against her former husband at his trial which began on 22 September 1980. On 2 October 1980, he was convicted of second degree murder for the death of Chantal and the attempted murder of his wife. The following month Kevin Green was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. While Green was incarcerated, he had maintained his innocence and tried to have a DNA test performed on the evidence collected in the case but he lacked the money needed for such expensive forensic tests.
During this time another series of murders had started in Goleta, Santa Barbara County, with couples being attacked in their homes. The men were subdued and beaten to death and then the female victims were tied up, raped and beaten to death in the same manner. After the murder of two couples in Goleta, the killed struck in Ventura County on 13 March 1980 and later Orange County. There was some theory by law enforcement that these murders were linked to the Bedroom Basher crimes, however the Ventura and Goleta Murders were of a different M.O. and later attributed to the then unknown Serial Killer who was dubbed the Original Night Stalker.
Meanwhile, the murders continued when Debora Kennedy, 24, of Tustin, was raped and murdered on 7 October 1979. She had never married and had been living in the 15500 block of Boleyn with her sister Yvette La Vey and had been working for six years as an assembler of cassette tapes at Memorex in Santa Ana at the time of the attack. Parker entered the apartment at about 10:30am and attacked Kennedy with such force that she died from severe skull fractures. She was then raped and left for dead. The series of murders caused such panic in 1979 that many residents either moved out of town or bought guns to defend themselves.
At 3:00am on 21 October 1979, Debra Lynn Senior's roommate discovered her battered body in their Costa Mesa apartment. Senior had moved into the apartment on Maple Street only two months earlier after graduating from Estancia High School in Costa Mesa. She was planning to take a secretarial Course at Orange Coast College and in the meantime she was working as a delivery driver for a blueprint and graphics firm. On the night of her murder, she and her roommate attended a party for members of the college cross-country team but then decided at 10:30pm that she wanted to go home early.
Sometime after she returned home, Gerald Parker entered the apartment through a bathroom window and knocked down the blue shower curtain as he did so. He later recalled watching her from the bathroom as she arrived home from the party and mixed a drink in the blender. She sat on the couch drinking and then fell asleep. He then emerged from hiding and savagely beat and raped Senior, leaving her for dead.
Gerald Parker was born in Phoenix and was 9-years-old when his mother died and his father abandoned him and his nine siblings. His sisters were sent to stay with relatives but he and some of his brothers were sent to youth homes. After two years Parker moved to San Diego to stay with his Aunt. His first offence dated back to the 1960's when he served a term in Juvenile Hall for glue sniffing. As an adult he began to drink heavily due to his shyness around women and also developed a drug addiction.
His desire for women and prostitutes intensified and he regularly went to bars to get drunk and afterwards started to peep in windows and would attempt to find apartment doors which were unlocked. During one such drunken incident, Parker got into a fight with another man and beat him with a 2x4 piece of lumber. The man was not seriously injured but it proved to be his weapon of choice in his later attacks. At the time of his arrest, Parker had been in the Marine Corps for 7 1/2 years and was a Staff Sergeant serving at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station which was located close to the victims residences. He had previously served at bases in North Carolina, Mississippi and Alaska.
In February 1980 he was arrested twice, once for beating a woman from Los Angeles County with a pipe and robbing her and later on the 15 Feb for the attempted kidnapping and rape a 13-year-old Tustin girl. The young girl told police that a man wearing a military uniform had dragged her into his black Dodge van whilst she walked along Nisson Road.
Whilst in custody Parker confessed to the crime, telling detectives he drove the girl around for 45 minutes before he stopped at a Westminster shopping center. Then he ordered the girl to remove her clothing and then asked her if she had ever been raped before, then he assaulted her. Not long after a Military Police Officer, Staff Sgt. Larry Coyle, heard a radio description of the suspect and his van. He then spotted Parker standing next to his black Dodge van. Initially Parker denied any involvement but when he was told the girl would view him in a line-up he blurted out, "I'm guilty, I did it!". He was arraigned for the crimes of kidnapping and rape and sentenced to 6 years in prison. Unbeknown to police, the Bedroom Basher was now off the streets.
Gerald Parker served his sentence at Avenal State Prison and was awaiting his July 6 release on parole when he was visited by officers from both the Tustin and Costa Mesa police departments on 14 June 1996. They wished to interview him about the murders and present him with DNA evidence they had obtained which linked him to the series of attacks. When confronted with the evidence, Parker reportedly confessed to the assaults and murders of several women in Orange County in the late 70's.
He told Detectives that whilst in prison for the attempted rape, he admitted he felt regret and guilt that a fellow Marine had been sentenced for a crime he himself had committed. Parker also admitted to police that he was drinking heavily and high on drugs for most of the period during which the murders happened and that he never wore gloves during the attacks or attempted to wipe away his fingerprints. He said he would walk up and down the streets of the apartment complexes and choose his victims at random, being so drunk that he did not know who would be inside when forced his way in.
Due to the DNA evidence and confession from Parker, Kevin Green was released from prison several days later on 20 June 1996, after serving almost 17 years. Parker was indicted in the six "Bedroom Basher" murders on 30 July 1996. The District Attorney's office announced on 6 September that it would seek the death penalty against Parker. At his 12 September arraignment, Parker pleaded not guilty to the six murder charges at the Orange County Superior Court.
Parker at his trial
In October 1998 he was convicted on six counts of first degree murder, six counts of first degree rape and one count of first degree attempted murder. Eventually Parker confessed to the murders, and on 22 January 1999 he was sentenced to death by lethal injection, plus life without the possibility of parole, plus 64 years in prison. He remains on death row in San Quentin State Prison and in June 2017 the California Supreme Court upheld his death sentence.
Gerald Parker on Death Row
Written by Nucleus