Murder of Marion Parker
October 11, 1915|
Sebastian County, Arkansas
|Died||December 17, 1927 (aged 12)
Los Angeles, California, United States
|Cause of death||Homicide by strangulation|
|Known for||Murder victim, song inspiration|
Marion Parker (October 11, 1915 – December 17, 1927) was the 12-year-old daughter of Perry Parker, a prominent banker in Los Angeles. She had a twin sister named Marjorie. On December 15, 1927, Marion was abducted from her school and later killed by William Edward Hickman (February 1, 1908 – October 19, 1928), who called himself "The Fox." Her murder has since become the subject of folk songs.
Songs and some reports about Marion misspell her name as "Marian."
Abduction and murder
William Edward Hickman was born in Sebastian County, Arkansas, the fourth of five children (and the youngest son) of William Thomas Hickman and his wife Eva (Buck) Hickman, who separated sometime before 1928. In that year, his father was living at El Paso, Texas, while his mother and sister lived in Kansas City, Missouri.
Hickman abducted Marion from Mount Vernon Junior High School in the Lafayette Square section of Los Angeles. He had told the school's registrar, Mary Holt, that Perry Parker had been seriously injured in an accident and wished to see his daughter. Hickman was posing as an employee of the bank where Perry Parker worked. He did not know that Marion had a twin sister and he did not know either twin's name. Nonetheless, one of the twins (Marion) was turned over to him. Holt said during Hickman's trial that she "never would have let Marion go but for the apparent sincerity and disarming manner of the man."
The next day Hickman sent the first of three ransom notes to the Parker home, demanding $1,500 in $20 gold certificates. All his communications over the next few days were signed with names such as "Fate," "Death," and "The Fox."
A first attempt to deliver the ransom failed when Hickman saw police in the area. Further communications from Hickman set up a new meeting for delivering the ransom money. This was at the corner of West 5th Street and South Manhattan Place in Los Angeles. Parker arrived there alone with the ransom money. He handed over the money to a young man who was waiting for him in a parked car. When he gave the money to Hickman, he was able to see his daughter sitting in the passenger seat next to him. The girl was concealed up to her neck by clothing and was apparently unable to move.
As soon as the money had been handed over, Hickman drove off and pushed Marion's body out of the car at the end of the street. The coroner later testified that she had been dead for about 12 hours. Her arms and legs had been cut off, and she had been disemboweled and stuffed with rags. Her eyes were being held open by wires. Hickman later said that he had strangled her and cut her throat first, but he believed that she was still alive when he began to dismember her. Her arms and legs were found on December 18 in Elysian Park, wrapped in newspaper.
A towel stuffed into her body to absorb blood led police to Hickman's apartment building, but he managed to escape.
A massive manhunt for Marion's killer began. It involved over 20,000 police officers and American Legion volunteers. A reward of $50,000 was offered for the identification and capture of the killer, dead or alive. This was later raised to $100,000. Suspicion settled upon William Edward Hickman, a former employee of Parker. Several years before the abduction, Hickman had been arrested on a complaint made by Parker regarding stolen and forged checks. Hickman was convicted and did prison time.
Police traced a laundry mark on a shirt found with Marion's body to an apartment house in Los Angeles, where they questioned a man named Donald Evans who matched Hickman's description. Evans allowed the police to search his apartment but no evidence was found. Evans then disappeared and was later identified as Hickman.
The getaway car used for obtaining the ransom money was found by police, and it was identified as having been stolen some weeks earlier. Investigators had Hickman's fingerprints on file, owing to his previous arrest and incarceration. They matched them to fingerprints found on the ransom notes and on the getaway car.
Capture and execution of Hickman
A week after the murder, officers Tom Gurdane and Buck Lieuallen found Hickman in Echo, Oregon. They had recognized him as the man shown on wanted posters. Hickman had spent some of the ransom money in Washington and Oregon.
Hickman subsequently confessed to kidnapping Marion but blamed her murder on a man who was actually in jail at the time when the crime was committed. He was extradited to Los Angeles, where he confessed to another murder, which he had committed during a drug store hold-up. He also confessed to having committed many other armed robberies.
He stated that he originally had had no intention of killing Marion, but did so because she had learned his identity and because he had previously been employed by her father at the bank. He also said that he had cut up the body with the intention of disposing of it, but then realized that Parker would want to see his daughter before paying the ransom. He then attempted to reconstruct and disguise Marion's body to make it appear that she was alive.
He told his attorneys that he had killed Marion upon the direction of a supernatural being called "Providence." He was one of the first defendants to use California's new law that allowed pleas of not guilty by reason of insanity. In February 1928, a jury rejected the insanity defense and sentenced him to hang.
At his trial, Hickman pleaded insanity as his motive for the crime, although he had initially told police that he needed the $1,500 ransom to attend a Bible college. Evidence against his insanity defense included prison guards from Oregon, who testified that Hickman had asked them about "how to act crazy."
Prosecutors speculated that he wanted revenge against Parker for having testified against him in his earlier trial for theft and forgery.
There is evidence that he committed the murder, in part, for the notoriety it would bring him. He told a reporter that he wanted as much press coverage as was received by the high-profile killers Leopold and Loeb.
- Capital punishment in the United States
- List of murdered American children
- Photograph of Marion
- Findagrave.com grave location and images The spelling of Marion's name is confirmed by the urn containing her ashes.
- Marion Parker ballads
- Let Murderers Hang, The Los Angeles Times, December 21, 1927
- 1910 Federal Census for Harford Township, Sebastian County, Arkansas
- 1920 Federal Census for Harford Township, Sebastian County, Arkansas
- Oakland Tribune, 20 Jan 1928
- "Fate, Death and the Fox" at crimelibrary.com
- The murder of Marion Parker by Mark Gribben
- ERBzine 1767: Hickman trial report by ERB
- Cantillon, Richard H. In Defense of the Fox: The Trial of William Edward Hickman. ISBN 978-0837567570.
- Neibaur, James L. (2016). Butterfly in the Rain: The 1927 Abduction and Murder of Marion Parker. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1442251199.
- Newton, Michael (2000). Stolen Away. Pocket Books.
- "Mutilated And Lifeless Body Of Kidnapped Girl Returned To Father For $1500 Ransom", The Havre Daily News-Promoter (Havre, Montana) December 18, 1927
- "Hickman Faces Trial Judge", Davenport (Iowa) Democrat, January 25, 1928
- "Hickman is Guilty; To be Sentenced Early Saturday", Zanesville (Ohio) Signal, February 10, 1928
- "Hickman Executed for Murder of Marion Parker", The (Danville, Va.) Bee, October 19, 1928