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Witness in murder trial slain on bus ride back to prison

February 03, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - A state prison inmate who was in Hagerstown Tuesday to testify for the defense at the sentencing of convicted murderer Kevin G. Johns was killed Wednesday morning on a bus carrying inmates to prisons in the Baltimore area.

Phillip Parker, 20, was killed between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. Wednesday by "one or more unnamed inmates," said Maryland Division of Correction spokeswoman Capt. Priscilla Doggett.

Parker, who was serving a three-year sentence for unarmed robbery, was being returned by bus to the maximum-security Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, also known as Supermax, in Baltimore.

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He was one of about 35 prisoners being taken from Hagerstown prisons to various prisons in the Baltimore area, Doggett said. She said the inmates on the bus had been "scheduled for court appearances."

Doggett would not reveal how Parker was killed, saying the investigation was ongoing.

No one had been charged in the slaying by late Wednesday afternoon, Doggett said.

Doggett told The Associated Press that the inmates were in leg irons and handcuffs, and five correctional officers were stationed throughout the bus.

She would not say whether Johns, who had been held at Supermax, was on the bus. Doggett would not release the location of the bus when Parker was killed, saying that was part of the investigation.

On Tuesday, Parker testified in Washington County Circuit Court during a sentencing hearing for Johns, who had pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the January 2004 strangling death of Armad Cloude, his 16-year-old cellmate at the Maryland Correctional Training Center near Hagerstown.

Johns choked Cloude while he was doing his hair in a segregated cell the two shared, Washington County Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael has said.

Johns, who already was serving a 35-year sentence for first-degree murder in connection with another case, was sentenced Tuesday to life without the possibility of parole for Cloude's death.

Parker was among four defense witnesses from Supermax who testified Tuesday that Johns would benefit from intensive psychiatric treatment at the Patuxent Institution, a state facility for mentally ill inmates.

Johns said during the hearing that he would kill again if he were sent back to prison.

Parker testified Wednesday, "DOC can't give him the treatment he needs for all his mental problems."

"He gets really paranoid. He gots a really short temper, right," Parker testified.

Michael said Wednesday that Parker was not killed in Washington County, but did not have any more information.

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