Welcome to my page! My name is Robert Erik Denney and I have been wrongfully convicted of murder in the death of Corey Parker. Since then my life has been changed in the most unimaginable way. Many people might be mad at me or even hate me, but what is really unfair is that the truth will never be revealed. A friend of mine has encouraged me to get out my story since the media and local government seem to only care about the covering up of pertinent facts and kicking dirt over my life. Two victims came about from this mess…..here is my story. Please be engaged enough to read it in its entirety before making judgments or leaving comments.
Download my Motion for Post Conviction Relief
How would you feel if you, one of your family members, a loved one, or even a good friend was accused and convicted of a brutal murder they did not commit? It happens more often than people realize. If you doubt that, then you should read my story.
I am in a Florida prison, convicted of murdering a person I never met or even knew existed. I am 31 years old and have been in jails, prisons, and other governmental holding facilities since I was 19, trying desperately to prove my innocence. This is my story that will hopefully help convince anyone reading that I do not belong in prison.
On Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1998, 25 year old waitress, Corey Parker, was found murdered in her Jacksonville Beach, Florida 32250 apartment. She lived in a bottom floor apartment of a quad-plex apartment building that sat back door to back door across a courtyard from my upstairs apartment. Our buildings were separated by a small yard, clothesline, and a chain link fence, just 35 feet apart. Ms. Corey Parker’s body was found the day after Thanksgiving by a co-worker trying to find out why she didn’t make it to work. She was found nude in her bed stabbed to death.
I was 17 years old, working as a cook/dishwasher at a nearby BBQ restaurant. I never met Ms. Corey Parker, and was unaware that anyone was residing in the unit where she did. In fact my roommate and I thought her apartment was empty. The day her body was discovered I was surprised to learn someone even lived there.
Jacksonville Beach Police interviewed every person who lived in the neighborhood several times in the days following her murder. Detectives spoke to me twice and they later admitted I was not a suspect. Never did I think I would later be arrested for the murder.
COLD CASE / UNSOLVED HOMICIDE
In March 1999, four months after Corey Parker was killed, I moved back to El Paso, TX, where I grew up. I moved back home because I had an alcohol and drug problem in Florida and returning to Texas was like a fresh start. I didn't keep up with the news so I assumed police had caught the murderer, and I never really gave it a second thought. In early 2000 I had managed to clean my life up and move to Maryland where I started a new career and my own business in the computer industry.
Meanwhile back in Florida, the investigation sat idle for nearly 2 years. And any leads the police had were long since extinguished. Detectives couldn't find any enemies that Ms. Corey Parker had, as she seemed quite popular. However, she did have a co-worker, Eric Ely, who police described as a person of interest. On numerous occasions Eric Ely had asked Corey Parker out on dates and was continually bothering her to the point of stalking. Eric Ely was interviewed by police; he proceeded to tell them he was supposed to meet Corey Parker for Thanksgiving dinner. Eric Ely also admitted he had fantasized about stabbing her to death and raping her. He denied doing so. In a hypothetical “what if”, Eric Ely described how he would have murdered Corey Parker; eerily in a similar manner to the actual crime scene including facts that hadn't been made public. Detectives believed Ely, who was diagnosed as a schizophrenic, was simply being crazy and let him go. Shortly after the interview, Eric Ely fled to Norway. Who knows where he is now, maybe Norway.
By spring of 2000, family and friends of Corey Parker wanted to know why the police had no real suspects and had made no arrests. The news began running stories about the murder remaining unsolved and a $20,000 reward was posted for information. As everybody knows, money will bring out the worst in people. I had to learn this the hard way.
Over a year and a half after the murder took place, two of my former co-workers at the BBQ restaurant found out about the reward and remembered that I had lived in the same neighborhood. Unfortunately these were people I considered my friends. They held bitterness towards me because of my calling in for work sick, lying about a death in the family member so that I could take a weekend off for partying several months after the murder. Lying to my co-workers is something I am ashamed of and is an unfortunate result of being on drugs at the time.
My ex-colleagues then called the police and informed them of their suspicions that I may have been involved in the murder due to the fact that I had lied to them about calling in sick so I could go out partying and that I had lived near the murder scene. My ex-colleagues lead the police to believe that my lie was on the same weekend of Corey Parker’s murder, however my lying about calling in sick actually occurred months later. I believe the motive was solely over the $20,000 reward and they were not concerned with the true details and accuracy involved timeline of events. One of them, Julie Sedgwick was even impeached during the trial and admitted she had confused the dates and still expected reward money. As far as I am aware she received a portion of it.
There is no question I was wrong for lying to skip work, but that in no way makes me a murderer. People call in sick and lie everyday to get out of work across America. Armed with this tip the Jacksonville Beach Police Department began efforts to locate me, by this time I was living in Maryland. My sister lived in Jacksonville Beach and the Jacksonville Beach Police contacted her. She and I had not been on speaking terms for quite a while, so she did not have flattering things to speak about me to the Jacksonville Beach Police. She mentioned to them that my brother is in prison in Texas for a 1990 murder. Incredibly, the police then decided that if my brother is a murder then I too must be one. I was 9 years old when my brother was arrested and I hardly knew him.
The police convinced themselves that since my brother was a convicted murderer, and because I lied and skipped work, then I must be the murderer who killed Corey Parker. They were so desperate to solve the case and arrest somebody, and armed with this little piece of information they turned and made me the prime and only suspect. All other leads were abandoned and detectives developed tunnel vision on me.
What if the Police began stalking and harassing you to collect your DNA?
This is exactly what happened to me. This is where Detective Billy Carlyle came into the picture. At the time, Detective Billy Carlyle was Sergeant of Detectives with the Jacksonville Beach Police Department. Interestingly, the moment Angela Corey became State Attorney in Florida's Fourth Judicial Circuit Court, which includes Duval, Nassau and Clay counties she immediately fired Detective Billy Carlyle. Anyhow, Det. Billy Carlyle used my case to catapult his career, and he had no qualms about lying, tampering with evidence, or manipulating witnesses. He cannot seem to get enough media attention and thrives in front of cameras. Over the years he has given dozens of interviews and he has participated in countless television programs about my case.
What Det. Billy Carlyle conveniently left out was, how he stalking me and manipulated people to achieve his goal of arresting me. In June of 2000, Det. Billy Carlyle traveled to Maryland with the sole purpose of collecting my DNA to compare it with DNA samples found at the murder scene. Rather than ask me for a sample of my DNA and being forth right about me being a suspect, Det. Billy Carlyle along with other detectives told me I was a suspect in an unrelated assault that never occurred. My first instinct was that I was being manipulated and lied to, so I asked for an attorney to be present when the sample was taken. I was told I couldn't have one. The detectives then attempted to get me to leave a cigarette butt in an ashtray, drink from a bottle, and lick envelopes, all in attempts at secretly obtaining my DNA. Their efforts were so extremely obvious and I felt extremely threatened by their presence. I still refused to give a sample without my own legal representation present.
Undeterred Det. Billy Carlyle organized a surveillance team to watch me outside the computer store where I worked. There was a light rain all day long and according to Det. Billy Carlyle, I came outside and while smoking, spit several times on the pavement in a rain puddle. Over an hour later Det. Billy Carlyle claimed he had collected swabs of my spit from the rain puddle. This seems almost impossible to me considering the rain, but I have no way to disprove it.
Before the trial, the Judge on my case decided the police tactics in Maryland were improper and he ordered the attorneys to make no mention of their actions, but still refused to throw out the DNA samples.
What if your DNA magically matched DNA from the crime scene?
One would ordinarily think it was impossible for DNA from a crime scene to match someone who wasn't even there. Think again. My spit samples were sent to the FBI crime lab to compare against a single hair follicle that was found in a pair of Corey Parker’s panties that were balled up next to her body.
The FBI reported in September 2000 that the root from the hair yielded a partial, mixed DNA profile that contained DNA from either 3 or 5 completely different people. The report found that I was a contributor to the mixture.
For years I have struggled with trying to understand how this hair could contain any of my DNA, and I still don’t have any definite answers or explanations, but a lot has come to light to diminish the credibility of the test results.
It came to light that the FBI tested and handled my spit sample improperly simultaneous as the crime scene hair follicle. They were placed within centimeters of each other on machines and handled by lab analysts wearing dirty gloves. Considering how sensitive DNA sample testing is, it is very likely my saliva sample had contaminated the hair sample. The jury never heard about this because my attorney was unaware of the FBI mishandling and improper testing practices.
When my attorneys later had the hair root sent to a private lab for testing they learned that the sample was destroyed in testing. Thus there was no way to verify the FBI’s testing lab results. There is not even a picture of this hair. Another clear case of the mishandling of evidence in my case, is not photographing the evidence.
Another suspicious fact is that the hair was found in blood-saturated underwear at an extremely bloody crime scene, yet the FBI did not see any blood on my hairs under a microscope. This makes no sense unless the hair was not on the panties when the murder happened. Several other hairs were found on the panties that do not match my DNA and they did have blood all over them, consistent with what you would think hairs would have if they were present at the time of the murder.
With this single hair Det. Billy Carlyle tried to get an arrest warrant. State Attorney Angela Corey informed Det. Billy Carlyle he would have to obtain more evidence against me to get a warrant because one hair was not enough to prove murder.
Many people may recognize the name Angela Corey. She was elected to head of State Attorney of the 4th Judicial Circuit of Florida in 2008. She became nationally known in 2012 for her decision to charge George Zimmerman with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, in Sanford FL. Moving on.
Desperate to arrest me, but lacking necessary evidence to obtain an arrest warrant, Det. Billy Carlyle persuaded DNA analyst Timothy Petree with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), to “retest” blood samples collected at the murder scene. The histories of these blood samples are very incredulous.
Two days after the murder, crime scene technicians collected four samples of what looked like blood from the kitchen window area of Corey Parker’s apartment. The samples had been exposed to the outside environment and atmosphere due to negligence in securing the windows, and two dozen police officers had entered the scene. When the samples were finally collected, two of them had been packaged improperly and later turned to mold, and the other two were scrapped off of the surfaces with a dirty scalpel.
The samples were tested in April 1999 (a year before I became a suspect) at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) laboratory in Jacksonville, FL. One of the samples gave a partial, mixed result that matched Corey Parker and excluded me! The other three samples yielded “no result” meaning there was no DNA present.
Then in October 2000 when Timothy Petree retested the samples, one of the specimens that gave no results in 1999 all of the sudden generated a complete unmixed DNA profile that matched my DNA perfectly. This sample is known as sample #19. There again ironically, are no photographs of the blood sample much like the missing hair follicle photographs and Timothy Petree destroyed the entire specimen during the testing. Nobody can ever look at the sample and I was never able to have it retested since it was consumed in its entirety. In the years since my conviction I have learned that Timothy Petree has a history of destroying samples that match defendants so his results can never be confirmed or denied.
Like the hair, #19 was tested at the same time as my spit sample, and it is almost certain contamination occurred. Also, sample #19 was tested for 72 long days when most tests only take 3 days. Seems odd doesn't it. With both the hair and blood sample matched to me, Angela Corey applied for a warrant and two years and two days after Ms. Corey Parker’s murder I was arrested in Maryland, November 28, 2000. I fought extradition, but lost, and was extradited to Florida in February of 2001, indicted for first degree premeditated murder of a woman I have never seen or meet.
What if you had an alibi and could prove your innocence?
Detective Billy Carlyle never bothered to actually investigate whether I had an alibi, which luckily I do. Since the murder happened Thanksgiving Day I was able to remember exactly where I was, who I was with and what I was doing. In short 11 people, from my ex-girlfriend Heather Champion and several ex-coworkers all vouch for my whereabouts the day of the crime.
The state was surprised when they learned of my alibi because they rushed my arrest and never contemplated the possibility I could be innocent. Not wanting to backtrack and admit their mistake, the state was able to get the medical examiner to testify that Corey Parkers time of death could not be determined and that the murder could have happened before my alibi began.
During those years, while I sat in a local prison, it seemed that the state's case grew weaker and weaker. I was arrested at 19 years old and by 2004 I was 23 and still hadn't been to trial. It was discovered that there were dozens of unidentified fingerprints at the murder scene. Two semen stains from different men were found on the bed comforter Corey Parker’s body was on. These stains have still not been identified. Hundreds of hairs were taken from the scene, a majority never identified.
The prosecution tried to develop more evidence against me with no results. They learned that no carpet fibers from my apartment matched any of the fibers at the scene. No traces of blood were found in my apartment. No murder weapon or bloody clothes were found. No witness saw any scratched marks or bruises on me in the days that followed Corey Parker’s murder, which was inconsistent with the brutal nature of the crime. Most damaging to the state was the inability to establish any link whatsoever between Corey Parker and me.
Microscopic Hair Slides
By 2004, Angela Corey realized that her case against me was not very strong or persuasive, so she along with Det. Billy Carlyle set out to create more evidence even if it meant fabricating it.
The courts granted Angela Corey’s request to have samples of my hair collected to compare microscopically to the hundreds of hairs recovered from the murder scene.
Detective Billy Carlyle came to the jail where I was housed to collect my hair. My attorney came with him, along with his investigator. Det. Billy Carlyle refused to allow my lawyer to photograph the collection or to count and measure each hair. I did not understand at the time why Detective Billy Carlyle didn't want to let us properly document the collection until several months later.
Back in 1999 the FBI had examined all of the items taken from the crime scene, including the victim’s bed sheets and comforter, her clothes and debris collected by the medical examiner. Hundreds of hairs and fibers found on the items were placed in 39 microscope slides so analysts could better examine the evidence under a microscope. After the slides were created, they changed hands numerous times between the Jacksonville Beach Police Department and various laboratories. Normally when crime scene evidence is collected, a strict code called the “chain of custody” is established to track its movement. However, the chain of custody for the slides was broken on several occasions and their whereabouts are unknown or questionable for extended periods of time.
To sum up a long process, the hairs on the slides were microscopically compared to my hair collected by Det. Billy Carlyle. After being compared, many were then tested for Mitochondrial DNA, which is an unusual type of DNA in testing, normally used to identify hairs without roots, and is shared among many people unlike the conclusive DNA tests normally used.
In 2004 two private labs tested several hairs and reported that 6 hairs matched mine, and all my maternal relatives, mitochondrial DNA. One of the six hairs was supposedly the same hair that had the root with the mixture that contained my DNA that was tested by the FBI in 2000.
This news was devastating and totally perplexing to me. How could these hairs supposedly found at a murder scene possible match my DNA when I have never even been there? Even worse was that the hairs were purportedly collected from Corey Parker’s panties, hands and torso however these hairs of mine had no blood on them whatsoever. Because I did not murder Corey Parker, I knew there could be only one explanation, the hairs were planted and I was being set up!
My attorneys did not believe this possibility of my being set up so I started combing through every document that had anything to do with the slides. What I found was a confirmation of my suspicions. First, I found where the slides chain of custody was incomplete and that Det. Billy Carlyle always seemed to be the last name entered on the custody logs.
Next, what I found in my mind proves evidence tampering. Each time the slides were sent to a new lab, that lab would count how many hairs were on each slide. Incredibly, the numbers kept changing when they should have remained the same. For instance, one slide had 3 hairs when counted at one lab, and then the next lab logged and counted hairs on this same slide and it would have a count of 5 hairs, or in other words, 2 new hairs were now sitting on this particular slide. This change in quantity happened with 3 different slides, all of which matched my DNA. There can be no legitimate or innocent explanation for the follicle hair count discrepancies. Four years after my arrest when the state desperately needed more evidence, miraculously six hairs match my DNA materialize out of thin air and in the most obviously disturbing manner. All of this occurred only after Det. Billy Carlyle collected and possessed my hair samples.
Another oddity is the fact that none of the 6 hairs matched to me had no blood at all on them. Yet, Corey Parker’s body was literally covered in blood, as well as the bed and clothes around her. How could these hairs be collected off her body and panties, yet none have any blood on them? This makes no sense, especially considering all of the other hairs that didn't match me were covered in blood.
Even in the midst of this new incriminating evidence, additional evidence surfaced that was helpful to my case. Several of the remaining hairs that were tested did not match me, including hairs from Corey Parker’s torso and hand. Unfortunately, my attorneys never informed the judge or jury about any of these facts even though they were well aware, and agreed that the hairs were likely tampered with. I’ll never understand why they sat aside and didn't even attempt to do anything or say anything about the ordeal. But then again much of this case and handling of evidence I will never understand.
Imagine if the police manipulated and coerced a witness into lying?
Just for one moment try to imagine this from every possible angle. Think these types of people don’t exist? Then think again! It happens all the time. Why or how I will never wrap my mind around. In my particular case that witness’ name is Heather Champion. Heather Champion was my ex-girlfriend from a time in my life when I live in the apartment.
Anyhow, after I left Florida Heather Champion became addicted to drugs and a stripper. She had numerous legal problems and had been arrested on several occasions. Nonetheless, she came to visit me a few times while I was in jail and there didn't seem to be any problems between us. However just weeks before my trial in April 2005, Detective Billy Carlyle found out about Heather Champion visiting me and discovered she had a warrant for her arrest.
Billy Carlyle found Heather Champion and informed her he would work with her on her warrants, and that he wanted to help in my case. Of course Heather Champion was naturally and eagerly trying to avoid Billy Carlyle and her pending warrant. After numerous meetings and who knows what type of conversations, Heather Champion was shown evidentiary photographs and then claimed that 2 pieces of evidence, a Zippo lighter found at the crime scene next to Corey Parker's bed and a blue shirt found hanging in a tree outside belonged to me. Both claims are false and outrageous.
On the floor next to Corey Parker’s bed was a gold Zippo lighter with the acronym “NACTA” engraved on it. NACTA stands for National Air traffic Controllers Association. The State interviewed every single person who knew me back then and everyone agreed that this lighter was not mine, with the exception of Heather Champion.
My fingerprints and DNA were not on the lighter and my lawyers learned that only 50 of these particular lighters were made and distributed in the Washington D.C. area when I was 13 years old and living in New Mexico. I have no connection to any air traffic controllers or pilots whatsoever. However, my attorneys also found out that Corey Parker once dated a man who was going to college at an aeronautical school in Daytona where air traffic controllers train, although he could not be located.
On the morning that Corey Parker’s body was discovered police found a blue thermal long sleeved shirt hanging on a tree. Angela Corey speculated for years that this shirt was somehow connected to the crime, even though no forensics or witnesses could confirm her suspicion. Until Heather Champion claimed that the shirt belonged to me. Even then, there was nothing linking it to the murder. Three hairs were found on it. Not one of them matched my DNA or Corey Parker’s DNA and they were from 3 different people. It was tested for blood with negative results. Every person who knew me during my time in Florida agreed that this was not my shirt, Except for my ex Heather Champion.
As flimsy as it was, both the Zippo and the blue shirt were still used to convict me at the trial. I do not think the jury gave either of these pieces of evidence much thought or weight but there is no telling. I never saw the Zippo lighter or the blue shirt in my life and could not believe that Heather Champion claimed them to be mine, but I have some understanding that Detective Billy Carlyle just have threatened Heather Champion and used police scare tactics and threats to manipulate her.
In April of 2005, after 4.5 years in jail, I finally went to trial. The state’s evidence consisted of;
- The hair root sample that contained a mixture of 3 or 5 different peoples DNA, including mine that was destroyed in testing.
- The #19 blood scrapping that didn't contain any DNA in 1999 but when retested contained a DNA sample and matched my DNA.
- The six hairs found on Corey Parker’s body and in her bloody underwear that didn't have any blood on them, and didn't materialize until 2004 after numerous discrepancies of numbers of hairs found on different microscope slides.
- The Zippo lighter that my ex-girlfriend Heather Champion negotiated a deal for her warrants by claiming they were mine yet didn't have any of my fingerprints DNA on.
- The blue shirt found in a tree that my ex-girlfriend Heather Champion claimed belonged to me, yet had 3 hairs on it that aren't mine , and no link at all to the murder.
The trial lasted 3 weeks, with hundreds of exhibits presented, and over 80 witnesses testifying. The state focused on the DNA evidence and tried all they could to assassinate my character. Unbelievably my attorneys did practically nothing. They had no expert witnesses to discredit the DNA. They did not hire a medical examiner to determine the victims actual time of death. This time of death is still debated. Worst of all they didn't even show the jury all the problems with the DNA evidence and micro slides that I am revealing here.
My defense at trial was inept. My legal representation decided to argue that my DNA was in the crime scene due to secondary transfer. In other words, due to how close Corey Parker and I lived to each other, my DNA somehow got into the crime scene innocently through a nearby Laundromat, or by the open doors and windows that were left open by the crime scene technicians for days on end or even a stray cat. It was discovered that stray animals had traipsed throughout the crime scene when the doors and windows were left open. Yes we lived only 35 feet apart, but my attorneys didn't bother to hire any experts to corroborate this theory. I have virtually no say in what defense the lawyers put on, and I believed my input was discarded.
I wish somehow I could have shown the jury all the problems with the evidence that was left out. I don’t believe they would have convicted me had they known all the facts.
My first appeal came and went quickly. The attorney assigned to the appeal at first refused to challenge the DNA, and later changed the appeal to say that my DNA was illegally collected in Maryland. In 2006 the appellate court denied the appeal without giving any reason.
In July 2008, I filed what is known as a “Motion for Post Conviction Relief”. In this motion I cited my attorneys’ failure to do a proper job in representation and as a result I should be given a new trial. The motion details all the facts and issues with the DNA evidence and the State’s case that my attorneys never informed the Judge or jury of. It is attached to this blog and is downloadable for your review.
The motion has been pending for 5 years but is scheduled for an evidentiary hearing on October 1. 2013. The court has appointed me a new attorney, Rick Sichta, who will hopefully do better that my trial lawyers.
I am sick and tired of being portrayed as a monster for a hideous murder I did not commit. I’m tired of the public being told my DNA was found at the crime scene and the fact that no one ever hears about how troublesome and questionable the DNA evidence really is. I’m sick of sitting in prison, all my freedoms removed. It has been almost 13 years since my arrest.
Although I cannot give every detail and bit of info I’d like to right here. What you have read here are actual non arguable facts that have not come out before. They are real facts. No exaggerations or embellishments. Whether this blog will do any good or not remains to be seen but at least it gives me an opportunity to tell my side of the story.
If you are interested in coming forward with anyone information helping in my defense or have a kind prayer for me you may email me directly. Please note, since I am in prison any negative or abusive emails will not reach me. I have a friend, a 3rd party who will relay only helpful or inspirational information over to me. I plan to update this as time goes on as we wait the results of my motion for relief.