BENTON -- After hours of testimony, largely from law enforcement and defense attorneys centering on the timeline of events from the day of the Marshall County High School shooting, the mother of accused shooter Gabe Parker took the witness stand.
Mary Garrison Minyard was the final witness to testify in a day-long hearing on a suppression motion in Marshall County Circuit Court Monday.
Defense attorneys representing now 17-year-old Parker, accused of killing two and wounding several others on January 23, 2018, filed a motion last month to suppress statements he made to police that day, alleging he "wasn't in his right mind" and didn't understand his rights.
In often halting, sometimes tearful testimony, Minyard recalled driving Parker to school that morning, and dropping him off before heading home. But she didn't make it back to her home in Pirate's Cove -- she testified she made it as far as Fairdealing when her son called and spoke with her for what she estimated was about one minute.
"He told me someone was shooting," she testified. "I told him to get down and hide and that I was on my way, and I loved him."
Minyard described the scene at the school as "chaotic" when she arrived back on campus approximately 10 minutes later. She testified she tried numerous times to reconnect with Parker via phone but was unsuccessful. She was about to leave the high school campus to look for him at North Marshall Middle School, where the uninjured students were taken, when someone overheard her say Parker's name and told her, "That's the shooter."
When her husband, Justin, texted her about 9:15 a.m. to say police were at their home, Minyard said her first thought was that Parker was a victim. According to testimony, about 30 minutes later Justin called to tell her Parker was a suspect, Parker was in police custody and their handgun was missing.
A full hour passed between her learning Kentucky State Police troopers were at her home and her request for an attorney for her son, who she said she didn't realize was no longer on the school campus and actually had already been questioned by police when she received a text from a public defense attorney advising she do so. During that hour, Minyard described herself as so "hysterical" she wasn't able to use her own hands to operate her phone.
Minyard said a friend made the call officially requesting an attorney for Parker at 10:18 a.m.
Defense attorneys Doug Moore and Tom Griffiths attempted to show law enforcement as too eager to get their interview to follow proper procedures, while Commonwealth's Attorney Dennis Foust worked to demonstrate they acted properly and legally.
Bethany Willcutt, a public defender assigned to Marshall County, and her supervisor, Cheri Riedel, both testified in court they were never contacted by Parker's family nor anyone representing Parker, but attempted to get their office involved after learning police had a suspect they were actively questioning.
Willcutt recalled hearing of the shooting early that morning but it wasn't until around 10 a.m. when a clerk at the Marshall Circuit Clerk's Office showed her a picture of the alleged shooter -- whom she recognized as Minyard's son -- that she decided to get involved.
Willcutt recalled walking from the judicial building to the sheriff's office and asking to see Parker. She said Marshall Sheriff's Capt. Det. Matt Hilbrecht, who testified the same, told her that if she hadn't been retained by the family and she hadn't been appointed by a judge, she could not see Parker. And at that point, she had not been.
So she hurried back to the judicial building, where Marshall Circuit Judge Jamie Jameson appointed her. By the time Willcutt return to the sheriff's office, she said, Parker had stopped the interview because he wanted to speak with an attorney.
Foust and Riedel sparred during his cross-examination, with Foust noting, based on her testimony, all communication between her agency and Parker's family was of the agency trying to make contact with Minyard -- not the other way around.
But even before police began questioning Parker at the station nearly an hour after the shooting took place, Parker had already confessed to the crime, according to the testimony of former Marshall County Sheriff Kevin Byars.
Byars, who testified he encountered Parker and was involved in his arrest, recalled motioning for Parker to follow him out of the room. He said when Parker got outside, Parker slowly and deliberately removed the satchel from his back, placed it to the side, put his hands behind his back and said, "It was me. I did it."
Byars said Parker told them he acted alone, then told Byars where to find the gun and clip he had dropped just outside the performing arts center, which Byars went to immediately retrieve.
Parker's defense team focused in part on Parker's loss of his glasses before he was questioned, implying that he wasn't able to read the waiver form he eventually signed. Officers testified Parker was read his rights before the questioning and he stated he understood them.
But Hilbrecht had said during his testimony that Parker, when asked to sign the form, asked which line and specifically referenced the "witness" line, which he must have been able to read.
The defense team also spent time establishing that Minyard's contact information was readily available to multiple officers on the scene that morning.
According to the timeline established during testimony, police began questioning Parker at 8:35 a.m. and it was approximately 9:15 a.m. before police made contact with Minyard's husband at their home.
But KSP Lt. Trey Green, who was managing the scene from inside the high school that morning, testified there could have been multiple reasons for officers not to share that information on the phone, including the possibility that Parker's family was involved or might try to tamper with or destroy evidence before troopers were able to arrive at the home.
Following the hearing Griffiths said even when juveniles are tried as adults there are juvenile codes which still protect them and defense contends those were not followed. He said police should have notified Minyard immediately of the situation before questioning Parker and had multiple opportunities to do so, but chose not to.
"A chaotic situation and scene explains some of it, but not all of it," he said. "The police made a choice and that choice was not to follow the statute."
Griffiths noted, twice, the incident showed Parker wasn't "in his right mind," but declined to comment further as to what exactly that might mean.
Foust said Parker's eventual request for an attorney indicated he clearly understood his Miranda Rights.
The defense team has until Sept. 6 to file their final argument regarding the hearing, prosecution will have one week to file a response and then Jameson said he anticipates it will take him at least one week to review all the facts and file a ruling.
Parker is scheduled to return to Marshall Circuit Court for a status hearing on Nov. 15.