By BOB RUSS
Special to the Register
Feb. 11, 1981, is a date Jim Parsons isn’t likely to forget.
It is the day his wife, Barbara, 41, was found bludgeoned to death in the bedroom of their Norwalk home. It is also the day Parsons became the prime suspect in her murder.
But there is another day Parsons will remember: Aug, 19, 1993, the day he was convicted of his wife’s murder and sent to prison.
Parsons, now 75, is inmate No. 280942 at the Richland Correctional Institution. He has spent the last 20 years behind bars.
This may change Friday morning when he appears before a review board in Mansfield in hopes of gaining his freedom. He tried before, in January 2011, but he was denied parole. Huron County prosecutor Russell Leffler said his office does not plan to attend the hearing.
“He’s old and his health isn’t too great,” Leffler said. “He could very well get out. I don’t know if there’s anyone who will object.”
Former Norwalk Detective Greg Mehling, now with the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office, filed an objection the last time Parsons’ case came up.
Leffler said the review board’s decision could come Friday or at a later date. The case could also be sent to the full parole board for further consideration.
Whether Parsons is freed or returned to prison, few in Norwalk at the time of the murder will forget the case.
Barbara’s body was discovered at the foot of her bed in the family’s Sycamore Hills home by her daughter, Sherry. It was a grisly scene — the bed, floor and walls were drenched in blood, and Barbara’s skull had been bashed in. A coroner later determined Barbara had been struck at least 15 times in the head with a heavy object.
Suspicion immediately fell on her husband. The couple had been fighting of late, and there was talk of divorce. Plus, Jim Parsons had admitted to several affairs.
Even so, there was no proof. Parsons said he was at his auto shop and later inside a downtown coffee shop at the time of the slaying, and no one could prove otherwise. A murder weapon was never found, and forensics turned up little of value.
Parsons continued to live as a free man, although many in the town shunned him, including former Norwalk Mayor Wayne Goodsite, who often complained Parsons got away with murder.
The clue that ultimately led to Parsons’ arrest came from a mechanic at his auto shop. The man told police he recalled Parsons mentioning something about his tool set missing a breaker bar — a long socket wrench used to break nuts and bolts off machinery. Parsons told them he must have left it in a car he sold to a friend.
Police traced the car to Arizona and found the breaker bar in the trunk. An analysis turned up no signs of blood or other material connecting it to the crime.
The tool sat in the evidence room until 1990, when a new detective assigned to the case, Norwalk Police Sgt. Mike White, noticed a match between markings on the bloody sheets and the breaker bar. A closer examination indicated the same — the stamp of the bar’s manufacturer, Sears & Roebuck, was visible on the sheets after forensic enhancement.
A little more than 12 years later, a grand jury indicted Parsons on charges related to his wife’s death. A Huron County Common Pleas Court jury deliberated more than four hours before deciding Parsons had indeed killed her.
To this day, he maintains his innocence. His friends say he was framed. Leffler says there is no doubt he did it.
After Friday’s hearing, the review board will decide if Parsons should go free or remain in prison, the place he has called home for the last 20 years.