Mark Parker describes the last three months of his life as a “living hell.”
His 16-year-old son, Robert Parker, died in March from what police said was a blow to his head during an underage drinking party.
Since then, Mark Parker has endured a homicide investigation, a special court hearing and talk of manslaughter charges against his surviving son and daughter for their brother’s death.
But last week, Bonner County Prosecutor Tevis Hull said he couldn’t find enough evidence to prove the teenager’s death was a homicide. He closed the case.
Now Mark Parker says there is another side of the story. One that was talked about only in a closed-door court hearing.
“Now that it’s over and done with I feel it’s proper to talk about it because I think this town has jumped to some conclusions,” said Mark Parker. “Robert doesn’t deserve to have his spirit go on and be remembered as having died from a wild beating and drinking spree because that is not what happened.”
Parker agrees that his son died from a blow to the head, but a blow suffered during a snowboarding accident at Schweitzer Mountain Resort - not from a fistfight with friends or siblings.
Robert Parker ran into a tree while snowboarding at the resort Feb. 25, a week before he was found dead in his home after the party. The crash left a large bump on his head, but he never went to see a doctor.
After talking with physicians, including one who testified in the closed court hearing, Mark Parker is convinced his son died from a brain hemorrhage caused by his skiing accident.
“When police first told us he died from a blow to his head, we told them about the skiing accident. They said the (injury) was in the wrong spot and ignored it,” he said. “Thankfully the prosecutor listened to us and looked at all the information.”
When the boy was first found dead in his bedroom, authorities speculated he died from alcohol poisoning. An autopsy later showed his blood alcohol level was well below the legal limit and that he died from a blow to the head.
Mark Parker said his son was in a scuffle with his older brother, Mike, 17, who hit him across the cheek. His sister, 20-year-old Jessi, also struck him and gave him a black eye the night of the party. But neither injury was serious, the children’s father said.
“His brother and sister have gone through hell the last few months and put under a microscope and scrutinized,” he said. “Obviously there was guilt feelings by them and my wife and I because we weren’t home when this happened. But it was, as I said before, a tragic accident.”
Authorities said they received conflicting stories about what happened at the unsupervised party of mostly juveniles. But the Parkers said the kids they talked to all gave the same account.
Robert Parker went to the bathroom later in the night and fell. He said he was sick and most partygoers assumed it was because he had drank too much. Mark Parker now says his son was suffering from concussion-type symptoms from his snowboarding accident.
After an hour in the bathroom, Parker’s brother moved him to his bedroom to sleep. Jessi Parker found him dead in bed the next morning.
“It was nobody’s fault,” Mark Parker said.
A friend has since sent him an article about a California boy who hit his head on a bed post and, a week later, died from a brain hemorrhage.
“These kinds of things do happen and it’s tragic,” Mark Parker said. “But now we can put this behind us and start healing as a family.”