Sunday, March 26, 2023

Pender detective allegedly harassed overdose victim prior to death, still employed and working desk job

Christopher Scott Parker. (Port City Daily photo / File)

Chris Parker died of a heroin overdose in 2018; his mother believes a Pender County Sheriff’s Office detective played a role in his deteriorating mental condition leading up to his death.

PENDER COUNTY — Christopher Scott Parker had a heroin problem, and he certainly had issues with the law. 

His mother, Brandy Wilcox, acknowledges both. But she also believes that over the course of eight years, Pender County Detective Kevin Malpass habitually harassed her son to a breaking point, and combined with his addiction and other personal issues, contributed to a deteriorating mental state that led to his death by heroin overdose in the summer of 2018. 

Related: Pender County mother claims Sheriff’s detective harassed her son ‘to the breaking point’

Wilcox said she was told by Sheriff Alan Cutler in an August 2019 meeting that Malpass had been ‘Giglio impaired’ — a judicial term used for law enforcement officers against whom there is impeachment evidence that casts substantial doubt upon the accuracy of their witness testimony.

The 1972 Supreme Court case Giglio v. United States along with the 1963 Brady v. Maryland dictate the types of materials and information — specifically information that would help the defense’s case — that law enforcement must share with the prosecution and, in turn, that the prosecution must share with the defense. Officers that are Giglio-impared, meaning there is evidence of criminal activity, dishonesty, grounds for bias, or other ‘impeachment information’ for them, must be identified to the defense. While these officers are not barred from testifying in criminal cases, they are seen as a liability by some law enforcement agencies, since the defense will have the ability to cast double on their testimony.

When asked Friday, Cutler said he wouldn’t feel comfortable giving that information out and said it was a matter for the district attorney’s office. In turn, a spokesperson for District Attorney Ben David’s office said Giglio impairment is not a public record and that their office only has a duty to disclose such information for review by a judge and defense attorney at the time of a trial.

But Cutler did say that although Malpass was not stripped of his badge, “we do have him doing something else now. He’s not out on the road working narcotics anymore.”

“We just thought it’d be a better fit for him doing what he is doing. He’s not exactly got a desk job, but he’s spending most of his time now at a desk,” Cutler said. “He’s helping out now with logistics and keeping up with tax warrants.” 

Cutler said the move was unrelated to Parker’s death. 

Claims of harassment

Wilcox claimed that her son was pulled over as many as 18 times in a 12-month period by Malpass and other detectives, but she said dispatch reports show only one such instance on record — Parker’s arrest in 2016 as part of an investigation that Malpass was involved with. Those charges were ultimately dropped.

[Editor’s Note: Port City Daily is in the process of requesting reports involving Detective Malpass and Parker, and will include the information in a follow-up.]

“He was a user but he knew to ride clean, because he knew that Kevin Malpass was out to get him,” Wilcox said.

Confrontations between Malpass and Parker included an alleged strip search on Highway 117, in which Parker was left on the side of the highway for more than an hour wearing only his underwear while a K-9 unit searched his truck, according to Wilcox. Although she was not present during the stop, the account was identical to one told by Kristin Davis, a longtime friend of Parker’s. 

Another close friend of Parker’s, RJ Goff, also confirmed their accounts.

“He was doing nothing wrong. He had nothing on him, there was nothing in his vehicle, he wasn’t high — he was actually having a good day — and then he left his house and within five minutes he was on the side of the road with two officers, literally half-naked, for nothing,” Goff said. 

All three said the roadside stop led to no arrest. According to Goff, such undocumented instances of intimidation by Malpass were routine in nature and wore heavily on his friend’s mental state. He said their own friendship suffered towards the end due to Parker’s increased heroin usage, but he believed the stress caused by constant harassment from Malpass and other narcotics officers, plus his own addiction, resulted in a toxic breaking point that led to his overdose.

“He had bigger demons than any of us could ever battle. And there at the end, when Malpass really started hammering on him, it just drove him to that point. I don’t think he wanted to kill himself. I think it was more that he wanted to drown out what was going on around him. I think it was definitely an accident on his own behalf, but at the end of the day, the role that Malpass played in all of this … ,” Goff trailed off at this point, unable to finish the thought. 

Before death, a video surfaces

In June 2018, Parker’s body was found in his truck at a Wilmington PetCo parking lot beside the body of his yellow Labrador retriever in near-100-degree heat. 

A week earlier, Parker posted a video filmed at a wedding rehearsal in October 2017 in which Detective Malpass jokes about having “cocaine in his pocket,” then asks the bride-to-be filming the video if she is going to “send this to Chris Parker.” After she says yes, Malpass extends his middle finger at the camera and shouts “[expletive] you.” 

According to Wilcox, who said she had shown Captain James Rowell the video weeks before her son’s death, the Sheriff’s office said they would handle it as an internal investigation. But communications from the Sheriff’s office soon dropped off, she said, even after a representative of the district attorney’s office told her that because it was a personnel matter, it should be handled by the Sheriff’s office. 

Use the link here if you are having problems viewing the video above. It has been edited to censor an expletive used by Detective Kevin Malpass in an apparent reference to Christoper Parker. 

Wilcox said the woman filming the video, who married a good friend of Malpass, then told her that Malpass had been cleared of any wrongdoing.

“And that’s when [Chistopher Parker] went into this downward spiral,” Wilcox said. “It was like, ‘Here I’ve got this video that proves he has a personal thing against me, and they’ve cleared him?’”

Shortly after Parker’s death, when asked about the non-arrest incidents between Malpass and Parker, the Pender County Sheriff’s Office would not answer, instead issuing a statement calling these accounts “hearsay.” 

‘It still lingers’

When asked if Malpass had been stripped of his badge, Cutler, who was not the Sheriff at the time of Parker’s death, said this was not the case. 

Asked if any sort of reprimand had been issued by then-Sheriff Carson Smith, he said his office had checked the records, showing Malpass was not served any kind of reprimand from the prior administration.

Records show that Malpass is still employed as a detective sergeant with a $49,000 salary. He was first hired in October 2007, promoted to detective in 2011, then promoted to sergeant in 2o12.

In January 2010, he was suspended for five days “due to personal conduct disciplinary action,” according to the records, and in March 2018 he was again suspended for three days due to “job performance disciplinary action.”

Captain Rowell, who provided the records, said this concluded all the public records information he was able to provide under state law.  

Although it was unclear when Malpass was moved to his new position handling logistics and tax warrants, Cutler said the move was done for the good of the Sheriff’s office. 

“Of course it still lingers, and it’s going to linger for years,” Cutler said. “I thought it’d be better for him, and for the organization as well, to put him [in a position] doing something different. For safety really.”

He said his office thought “it’d be a better fit to move him out of the narcotics division.” 

Wilcox said some justice was served when she heard from Cutler that Malpass had been Giglio impaired. But Cutler’s statement that Malpass still had his badge, along with his title as a detective sergeant, did not sit well with her.

“He abused his badge to harass my son relentlessly over a personal vendetta and he does not deserve to have a badge,” Wilcox said. 

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