When 23-month-old Demarcus Stokes would not sit still for a haircut and later urinated on himself in 2011, his mother’s boyfriend, Randy Demond Parker, whipped him, punched him and eventually caused him to die.
On Thursday, District Judge Trudy White convicted Parker of second-degree murder after a three-day bench trial she called one of the most difficult she ever presided over “because of the senselessness of what happened to a defenseless baby.”
Parker, 27, faces life in prison without parole for killing the toddler in October 2011.
Demarcus’ mother, Kimyia Stokes, remains jailed on an obstruction of justice charge in the case. She was called as a witness in Parker’s trial but invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to testify.
The verdict triggered sobs from Parker and his family members who sat in the packed courtroom. He dropped his head to the desk and started crying, and he held his attorney Benn Hamilton’s hand.
Parker turned and looked back at his family sitting in the second pew of the courtroom, who were also in tears, until sheriff’s deputies removed Parker from the courtroom to collect himself. With his sobs and screams still audible, his family quickly walked out of the courtroom.
The toddler’s family, who also attended the trial every day, said the justice they had wanted for the little boy had finally been served.
“My little grandbaby would have been 6 years old,” said Demarcus’ grandmother, Sue Gray. “It’s closure.”
Parker’s version of events of what happened in October 2011 and how the toddler ended up dead was different in three police interviews and during his testimony on the witness stand.
In police interviews after his arrest that were replayed in court, Parker said the boy started crying because he was scared of hair clippers that Parker was using to cut his hair.
“You want something to cry about?” Parker asked him, according to a police interview.
He turned Demarcus over and whipped him with a belt on the lower half of his body. Parker said the boy’s mother gave him permission to whip Demarcus.
Demarcus took a nap, and Parker woke him up later that night. Parker tried to potty train him, but Demarcus urinated on the floor and the bed instead of in the toilet. Parker said it made him mad.
“I’m gonna tell the truth today; I did punch that boy,” he said in one of the police interviews. He demonstrated how he punched the toddler with a closed fist on the torso and back, and continued to punch him once Demarcus fell onto the floor.
Assistant District Attorney Ronald Gathe, the prosecutor on the case, characterized the incident as a beating. Parker and his defense attorney Hamilton later said it was “play fighting.” And Parker said on the witness stand that “it really wasn’t no big deal” when Demarcus urinated on himself.
Parker also said in police interviews that he was “full of alcohol” and drank a bottle of gin that night.
Parker bathed Demarcus after the bed-wetting incident and said the boy looked like he was falling asleep in the tub. He put the toddler in the same bed with him and the boy’s mother and later noticed a milky substance leaking from Demarcus’ nose.
He said he checked his heartbeat and could not hear anything, but he and Stokes waited hours before calling 911. When EMS arrived, paramedics said it was too late and there was nothing more they could do to save Demarcus.
Hamilton argued that the child’s injuries came from three accidental falls in one night — once when he slipped on a popcorn tin and twice when he fell off the toilet. Hamilton said Parker did not intend to kill or injure the boy and that he intends to appeal the ruling.
A few of Parker’s family members testified that he had baby-sat their children and that they never had any reason to fear for their kids’ safety.
But the doctor who performed the autopsy testified that the child’s injuries were consistent with being punched and that Demarcus had considerable bruising on his head, torso, arms and legs.
The pathologist, Bruce Wainer, said further that the toddler had bleeding under his scalp and on the surface of his brain.
A grand jury had charged Parker with first-degree murder, but White said she could not determine whether Parker specifically intended to kill or inflict great bodily harm on Demarcus. However, she said, it was clear that Parker’s actions caused the boy’s death, which is why she convicted him of second-degree murder.
Parker served six months in Parish Prison in 2008 after pleading guilty to a reduced charge of simple battery in an unrelated case. He served another six months less than a year later after he was found guilty of simple assault.
White will sentence Parker on July 30. A conviction for second-degree murder in Louisiana carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Demarcus’ family said they celebrate Demarcus’ birthday every year, and he now would have been a big brother to another boy and two girls.
The boy’s father, Demarcus Gray Sr., said he was about to pick up his son in the morning when he got the call that his son was dead. He and other family members described his son as a happy and healthy child, and Gray said he never knew that the boy was spending time with Parker.
Sue Gray, the toddler’s grandmother, hugged lawyers from the District Attorney’s Office after the sentencing and complimented them on their work.
With tears streaming down her face, Sue Gray said she has been waiting for this day for three years.
“He’s in heaven now knowing his murderer is gonna be behind bars for the rest of his life,” she said.