Judge Sentences Elmer Nash, Jr. To Ten Years In Death Of Everett Firefighter Gary Parks

May 13, 2021

Police Blotter

Elmer Nash is brought into the hearing room without handcuffs but in a jail inmate jumpsuit.

Nash looks at the Parks family as he enters the room.

Supported by family and an advocate Kathy Parks addresses the court.

Nash sobbed as he addressed the Parks family.

During a break before the judge announced the sentence Kathy Parks speaks with Elmer Nash’s mother.

Current and former Everett Firefighters in their dress uniforms were in attendance at the hearing.

Judge Kurtz looks to Elmer Nash as he imposes a 10 year sentence.

Kathy Parks speaks with Detective Atwood and Captain Irving.

Nash is led away in handcuffs to begin his sentence.

Saying the attorney’s recommendations were insufficient, Superior Court Judge Dave Kurtz today sentenced Elmer Nash, Jr. to serve 10 years in prison followed by a lifetime of community custody following his release for setting a fire at Everett Community College in 1987 in which Everett Firefighter Gary Parks died.

At the time he set the fire Nash was just 12 years old. Now Nash is 47 years old and prosecutors, defense attorney and judge all agreed that the sentence should reflect judgement for a minor and not an adult. (The sentencing range for an adult is 411-548 months or an average of 43 years) The judge called it an Exceptional Sentence Downward. There was a difference however, in what the prosecutor and defense attorney called for and what Judge Kurtz decided.

Prosecutor Robert Grant reminded the court the way the law treats juveniles is much different than it treats adults and Nash was only 12 at the time of the crime. He mentioned that the original plea agreement for 1st degree murder with Nash called for 180 weeks incarceration (which works out to 3 years, 4 months) which is the low end of the juvenile sentencing range. Since Nash failed to show for sentencing last week that agreement “went out the window” and Grant asked for a sentence of 224 weeks (4 years, 4 months) which is the high end of the juvenile sentencing range.

Defense attorney Philip Sayles told court that he wanted the original sentencing agreement of 180 weeks to be imposed. He reminded the court that the parties had gone back and forth in negotiations daily for a month to make sure the juvenile guidelines were followed. He said he didn’t want to go into detail but Nash’s life was one of abuse and neglect suggesting he was a 12 year old in the body of a 47 year old. He said Nash was regretful and had been sober until three days prior to last week’s sentencing when he ran into some people and got spun up. He said Nash tried to call Detective Atwood with Everett Police but hung up.

Judge Kurtz spoke for some time before announcing the sentence, relating that Gary Parks would be 87 now. He said Gary Parks was a good man who was a hero but would likely say he was just doing his job. He said reasonable people can greatly differ about the sentencing decision. He said the sentence called for a huge departure downward from the adult range of four and a half decades and was confident any appellate court would agree.

Kurtz said Nash may have been 12 but there are things even 12-year-olds know including “don’t hit, don’t steal, don’t play with fire” and the judge also noted that under the Sentencing Reform Act there are two major considerations, the crime itself and the criminal record of the accused at the time of sentencing. The judge said the attorneys were focused on Nash being 12 but didn’t pay enough consideration to his record.

“What if Nash confessed in 1987?” Kurtz wondered, He said Nash already had some criminal convictions at that early age and given the gravity and impact of the crime and being a particularly troubled youth a lengthy sentence would not have been out of question including serving time in a juvenile facility from age 13 to 21.

The judge called Nash a grown man who sadly appears not to have grown up. He cited what he termed a huge criminal record that raises concerns once he is released and that the public has to be protected, mentioning Nash’s 11 felonies and 58 misdemeanors.

“In this case we have an unusual perspective to see what he has done as an adult”, said Kurtz. The judge noted Nash’s non-appearance at the sentencing hearing last week was an indicator of how he may follow agreements in the future.

Kurtz then imposed a sentence of 10 years in prison and a lifetime of community custody upon release.

Family members of Gary Parks spoke at the hearing including his daughters, a grandson, a family friend and Kathy Parks who told the court she was married to Gary for 25 years and through tears told the court her world ended as she knew it on February 16th, 1987. She also said she was treated poorly by the fire department, became the target of vicious rumors and never saw a dime of money raised by community members in car washes and other fund raisers. At one point she exclaimed, “I want the truth!” She told the court the lyrics of the song “Smile” got her through the hard times.

Elmer Nash Junior dabbed at tears at times while listening to the family speak of the impact the crime had on them. When he was called to speak he faced the family and in sobs said, “I’m sorry, I wish I could bring him back but I can’t.”

A number of current and former Everett Firefighters were in attendance today just like last week. Everett Fire Chief Dave DeMarco told MyEverettNews.com after the hearing was over, “We’re grateful for the case closing, this was a tragedy all the way around.”

Everett Police Detective Mike Atwood, who obtained a confession from Nash and who tracked Nash down after he failed to show for the sentencing hearing last week said mutual respect on many levels is what brought the case to today’s conclusion. Mutual respect between he and Nash’s mom, mutual respect between the defense attorney and the prosecution team, mutual respect between the police and fire departments all contributed to the resolution.

After paperwork was completed Nash was led from the hearing room in handcuffs to begin serving a decade in prison. He has 30 days to appeal his sentence. His attorney put multiple objections into the record but said he did not know if Nash would appeal.

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About myeverettnews

My Everett News is a hyperlocal news website featuring breaking news and events in Everett, WA. We also cover City of Everett information and items of interest to those who live and work in Everett. It's written by Leland Dart a former Snohomish County based radio reporter born and raised in Everett.

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