Cold case murder ends in conviction

Stephanie Sommers, murdered in Silver Lake in 1980.
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A convicted killer already serving time in prison for a 1981 murder was found guilty Tuesday of first-degree murder in the slaying of former Newhall resident Stephanie Sommers four decades ago.

After four hours of deliberation, jurors found 60-year-old Harold Anthony Parkinson guilty of murdering Sommers in 1980.

Stephanie Sommers, murdered in 1980.

“He was convicted of first-degree murder,” Greg Risling, spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, said Tuesday afternoon. “The jury announced their verdict this afternoon.”

The news was welcomed by Sommers’ family, who lives in Newhall.

“Next to getting married and having children, this is probably the happiest day of my life,” said Kelly Roberts of Newhall, Sommers’ nephew. 

“My aunt finally got justice,” he said. “When the verdict was read, my wife and I started tearing up.” 

Close family friend, Shannon Tulloss, who has been investigating the Sommers murder for years, attended each day of the Parkinson trial, she said Tuesday.

DNA evidence

“What made this case ironclad was the DNA evidence,” she said, noting family and friends were ecstatic to hear the verdict.

“You never get closure, but whatever that means, they (family) got somewhere near it,” she said.

In delivering their verdict, jurors also found true a special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a rape.

Parkinson faces life in state prison without the possibility of parole when he is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 2.

Deputy District Attorney Lowrie Mendoza of the Sex Crimes Division prosecuted the case.

The weeklong trial began with opening statements delivered on Oct. 28.

Forensic evidence from the crime scene was linked to Parkinson, who is currently serving a 15-years-to-life sentence in Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, Risling said.

Perry murder

Parkinson began serving his current sentence on March 5, 1982, for the 1981 murder of Derek Eugene Perry.

Perry was shot and killed by Parkinson on April 8, 1981, in Los Angeles, about eight months after Sommers was killed.

The Sommers case was investigated by detectives with the Los Angeles Police Department, Robbery-Homicide Division.

On Aug. 30, 1980, shortly after she moved to the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles from Newhall, Sommers was murdered in her apartment on the 3500 block of Marathon Street.

Sommers had been beaten and stabbed, prosecutors for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release issued at the time of Parkinson’s arrest. 

She was 36 years old.

Birthday plans

Kelly Roberts was 11 years old when his Aunt Stephanie was killed.

On the day she was killed, she had planned to come to the Santa Clarita Valley and take Roberts to Six Flags Magic Mountain.

“It was a belated birthday gift,” Roberts said Tuesday, reflecting on that day nearly 40 years ago.

“I was outfitted with some new clothes and I waited that day,” he said, noting a second day went by before he learned what had happened.

On the third day, Roberts said his mother received a phone call. “My mother on the phone sends me out of the house. I was crying but I didn’t know why.”

Then he was told that his aunt had been murdered.

News of Tuesday’s conviction resonated deeply for those who remember Sommers.

Anticipated trial

Last year, family and friends of the murdered woman were eagerly looking forward to the trial and were told it would begin in August 2018.

Family members of the murdered woman said early last year that they planned on attending every day of the trial once it started.

“I think it’s miraculous he was arrested. If he is found guilty, then we would be elated,” Jerry Roberts, who is married to the murdered woman’s sister Sherry, said at that time.

The Sommers case remained unsolved for more than three decades. Detectives arrested Parkinson on June 19, 2014.

Law enforcement officials said at the time of arrest that forensic evidence taken from the crime scene 34 years ago and processed just four years ago was linked to Parkinson.

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On Twitter: @jamesarthurholt

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