BURGAW—It’s been nearly three weeks since Christopher Parker died in a Wilmington parking lot. His mother said she believes he ended up there in large part due to years of harassment from a Pender County Sheriff’s Office detective – the same detective who appeared in a video posted on Facebook by Parker shortly before his death.
On June 20, Parker died of an apparent heroin overdose in the parking lot near the PetCo on South College Road (the autopsy results have not yet been released from the Office of the Medical Examiner). Trapped in the truck with him, in near-100-degree heat, was Parker’s yellow Labrador retriever Elvis.
According to Brandy Wilcox, her son had struggled with addiction for years and, while it was apparently a lethal dose of heroin that killed him, she believes her son’s state of hopelessness in his final days was the result of long-term harassment by Pender County Sheriff’s Office Detective Kevin Malpass and others.
While the Pender County Sheriff’s Office initially said there was no apparent connection between Parker and Malpass, after more detailed questions from Port City Daily, it was revealed that Malpass was part of an investigation that led to Parker’s arrest in 2016, although the charges were ultimately dropped. Malpass’ involvement was confirmed by Pender County Sheriff’s Office Captain James Rowell.
According to Wilcox, the relationship between the two went far beyond that one arrest.
Wilcox tells a very different story, several parts of which have been verified by others, including Kristin Davis, a longtime friend of Parker’s.
The allegations that follow were presented to Rowell and the Pender County Sheriff’s Office. Rowell’s initial response was: “I agree that the accusations are serious. That being said, the only person to raise these accusations to our office is Mrs. Wilcox. She has made the allegations in person, but has not shared information with our office to substantiate anything more than hearsay.”
When pressed for a response directly from Sheriff Carson Smith, Rowell eventually relayed the following message from the Sheriff: “I agree that the accusations are serious. If you have sources who have information to substantiate these allegations, please have them contact me so that the matter can be looked into.”
Allegations against Detective Malpass and Pender County
Davis described Parker as her “best friend,” and said the two had been close since she about 2005, when the two – born a week apart – were both 15. Davis said she had never had a romantic relationship with Parker, but the two had shared a “very blunt and honest friendship.”
Davis said that while Parker had struggled with addiction for years, he had also struggled to deal with increasing harassment from Malpass. According to both Davis and Wilcox, Malpass began to focus negative attention on Parker in 2010 as the result of a romantic rivalry.
Parker was stopped and searched with increasing frequency, according to both Davis and Wilcox. Davis was never a witness to the alleged harassment directly, but said over the years she had numerous conversations about it with Parker. Davis said she saw the toll it took on Parker’s mental state.
“I think he felt trapped. Being pulled, what became ultimately like being stopped every time you left your house, it put him in a dark place, in a really twisted up mental state,” Davis said.
Wilcox was there for several incidents, including one in which Parker left the house to take trash to a dumpster. He called her shortly afterwards, saying he was stuck at a gas station, with Malpass and another officer staking him out.
Wilcox described the confrontation that follows. In her telling, Malpass claimed he had responded to call advising that Parker had been “parked at the gas station for three hours,” although Wilcox had seen her son leave just a half-hour earlier.”
A more upsetting incident for Parker, according to Davis and Wilcox, was alleged to have happened on Highway 117. Neither Davis or Wilcox were witness to it, but they tell identical stories about their conversations with Parker about it. According to them, Parker was pulled over and detained by several law enforcement officers, including Malpass, stripped to his underwear, and made to stand by the side of the highway while officers searched his truck.
The incident, like all the alleged stops excepting Parker’s February 2016 arrest, did not result in an arrest.
When asked for an accounting of Malpass’ non-arrest activities related to Parker, neither Rowell, Smith or the Pender County Sheriff’s Office would answer, instead issuing only their statement calling these accounts “hearsay.”
‘A living hell’
Wilcox was forthcoming about her son’s issues, including his arrest for DUI, possession and check fraud. Wilcox also acknowledged Parker’s temper, which she said could flare up when he was using. Parker posted at least one video on Facebook, apparently under the influence, where he threatened law enforcement officers in general (the video appears to have been removed from Parker’s page, which is still active).
“He had a mouth, and he’d run it,” Wilcox said. “He had a temper. I’m not gonna say he didn’t have his problems. I’m his mama, I saw them more than anyone. But I’m telling you, he was trying to get clean, and do the right thing, and Kevin Malpass and his boys made it hard. They made it hell for Chris.”
Wilcox complained both to the Pender County Sheriff’s Office and the DA’s office. She sent them both a video, filmed in October, that Parker had acquired and kept to himself, showing only a few close friends and his mother.
The video depicts the detective joking about having “cocaine in his pocket.” Malpass asks the unseen female taking the video if she is going to “send this to Chris Parker.” When the woman says yes, Malpass extends his middle finger and shouts “[expletive] you.”
Wilcox made her complaint to the Sheriff’s Office in person and showed Captain Rowell the video. According to Rowell the incident was handled internally as a “personnel issue.” Malpass was cleared of misconduct charges and was apparently neither reprimanded or demoted.
Around the same time, Wilcox also called to file a complaint with District Attorney Ben David, and sent a copy of the video.
According to Samantha Dooies, spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s office, “The video was viewed by staff members in our office. It was determined that it did not depict any criminal activity. We directed the complaining party to file a complaint with the Pender County Sheriff’s Office to review the conduct.”
According to Wilcox, when Malpass was cleared of misconduct, Parker was devastated.
“He began to spiral, as soon as we heard he’d been cleared. It was like a whirlwind,” Wilcox said.
On June 5, Parker posted the video on Facebook. Wilcox said her son shared the video out of frustration that the harassment had continued. Sharing the video, she said, did not stop it.
Wilcox shared a text message from Parker, one week before his death.
“I’m getting [expletive] by these [expletive] burger police I swear to God I’m going to get out and fight these [expletive],” Parker wrote, taking the time to correct “burger,” to “Burgaw.”
The next day, Parker texted: “I am so tired of this life I have tired [living] right these cops are relentless making my life a living hell.”
Davis also shared texts from Parker, including a conversation they two had on Tuesday, June 19, the day before Parker’s death. Davis described Parker’s mood as “very dark,” though she said he was not suicidal.
“I don’t think he was suicidal, and I don’t – I can’t imagine he’d do anything like that with Elvis in the car,” Davis said. “I don’t think he wanted to die. It was more that he felt he couldn’t get out. He didn’t know what else to do.”
On Wednesday, June 20, Parker drove to Wilmington to buy food for several of his pets. He was found dead two days later.
Wilcox said she was touched by the two deputies who came to her house to tell her about Parker’s death.
“Jody Woodcock and Jerry Groves. If I could have hand-picked two officers I couldn’t have made a better choice. I could see the pain in their eyes when they told me and they stayed with me until someone got to me. They showed the utmost respect and I could see the sincere condolences on their face,” Wilcox said.
But when it comes to the Sheriff’s Office in general, Wilcox is still angry, believing they allowed systemic abuse of power – the type of which that “drove Christopher to want to end up in the truck, to not give a [expletive] anymore. They drove him to the breaking point.”
Davis and Wilcox both said on several occasions they did not feel Malpass was responsible for Parker’s death. But both felt that the harassment Parker endured over the course of eight years played a significant part in his downward spiral, alongside addiction and other personal issues.
“I definitely feel like (Malpass) played a role in his mindset,” Davis said. “I do feel like there should be some justice for Chris.”
Wilcox said she would continue to speak out.
“Until I draw my last breath. I’ll go back to the District Attorney, I’ll go the Attorney General, I’ll go to the state, the feds, whoever I have to. They did whatever they wanted and got away with it,” Wilcox said. ”They get away with it because no one speaks up. Well, I’m speaking up.”
Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at email@example.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.