Sheriff Sam Parker Indicted, Suspended, Vows Innocence
CHESTERFIELD CO., S.C. - Sheriff Sam Parker was suspended from his job Wednesday by Governor Nikki Haley. Parker faces six charges, including two for letting county inmates Michael Lee and William Skipper live and sleep outside the detention center, drive Sheriff's Office vehicles, have access to firearms, dine at restaurants, take shopping trips and more.
In exchange, the convicted felons allegedly worked at the Sheriff's home and personal properties. The accusations are surprising for some. Chesterfield resident Frank Cranford says, "You don't know whether you can trust them (law enforcement) or not." Others see it differently. Chesterfield resident James Price says, "I don't see a problem with it, it's just like being on work release, as long as somebody's actually there to watch 'em while they're working."
Parker's attorney Johnny Gasser tells WCCB News that Parker caught inmate Lee stealing and sent him back to the state Department of Corrections, so Lee leveled these accusations out of revenge. Gasser says, "We don't believe Sam Parker in any way shape or form acted with any type of criminal intent."
Parker is also accused of using county money to purchase a personal shrimping boat as well as keeping the county's John Deere Gator, military truck, trailer and four wheeler at his home for personal use.
The indictment additionally charges Parker with giving at least six firearms to non-law enforcement personnel for non-duty related reasons.
"To me, an indictment doesn't mean much," says Chesterfield business owner Mike Griffin. He describes Parker as hard working and smart. "If Sam Parker were violating some little law and he didn't know, I hope they're not gonna fry him because of it. Let's give the man the benefit of the doubt," Griffin says.
Parker's arraignment is scheduled for Friday morning in Columbia. A judge will set bond, likely unsecured. County coroner Kip Kiser has been appointed interim Sheriff. He released a statement that says in part, "I will do everything I can to assure that all matters concerning the Sheriff's Office are handled in a professional and respectful manner."