EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 7, 2013

Judge withdraws from Danville chief's gun case

15-year-old killed himself with Parsons' revolver

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — PLAISTOW — Danville police Chief Wade Parsons’ firearms case is being transferred to a court outside the county.

A prosecutor asked Judge Sharon DeVries to recuse herself following comments she made at a hearing in August.

Parsons, 54, contends he is not responsible for the death March 11 of a 15-year-old boy who shot and killed himself with the chief’s service revolver.

Parsons pleaded not guilty to a negligent storage of a firearm charge after his girlfriend’s son, Jacob Carver, was found dead in the chief’s home on Caramel Drive in Danville. Parsons was charged with failing to secure his loaded handgun before leaving the house to run errands.

When Parsons made an unexpected appearance at his pretrial hearing Aug. 8 in 10th Circuit Court in Plaistow, DeVries said she was “surprised.”

The judge also said she “has known Chief Parsons as the Danville police chief for as long as (she) has been on the bench,” according to the court motion filed by Assistant Rockingham County Attorney Terri Harrington.

Harrington said DeVries’ response and relationship with the chief indicated she could not be impartial when hearing the case. DeVries agreed Aug. 26 to step down from the case, which will now be heard by another judge.

“The judge’s statements give the impression that the judge is partial to the defendant, due to her longstanding working relationship with him as the Danville chief of police,” Harrington said.

A court clerk said yesterday the case would be transferred to 7th Circuit Court in Dover — in Strafford County — and that a pretrial hearing set for Sept. 16 in Plaistow would be rescheduled.

Parsons has refused to comment on the case, but his attorney, Alan Cronheim, said he did not question DeVries’ partiality.

“I think Judge DeVries would have been thorough and fair,” Cronheim said. “I don’t feel there is any need to recuse her from the case. She is a careful judge and a thoughtful judge.”

If convicted of negligent storage of firearms, a violation, Parsons faces a fine of up to $1,000, but no jail time.

Rockingham County Attorney James Reams has said his office decided to charge Parsons because of the shooting’s severity and to send a message to gun owners they need to take precautions.

He said the Glock 22 .40-caliber handgun was left on top of a closet safe, where Parsons regularly stores the weapon.

Jacob, a Timberlane Regional High School freshman who wrestled and played football, is the son of Parsons’ girlfriend, Debbie Carver. The boy’s father, Geoffrey Carver, has declined to comment other than to say Parsons is “very irresponsible.”

Danville Selectmen’s Chairman Shawn O’Neil has said his board continues to back Parsons.