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Before Southern Utah murder-suicide, victim sought a good life

Published March 27, 2012 1:56 pm

Family friend says killer quickly clung to Parker family but was not the person he portrayed.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When Adria "AJ" Parker met Landon Jorgensen, the relationship advanced quickly.

Jorgensen moved into Parker's home in the 600-person community of Central, about 20 miles northwest of St. George, after only a few weeks of dating. And in Facebook postings, Jorgensen referred to Parker and her 5-year-old daughter Eliza Parker as "my family," said Steve Streeter, a friend of the Parkers.

Jorgensen also referred to Parker's parents as "my in-laws," Streeter said.

"By appearance to me, it seemed to be a little clingy and possessive," Streeter said.

Parker, 25, tried ending the relationship Wednesday or Thursday, Streeter said. Jorgensen, 24, reacted by entering the bathroom of the home they shared Thursday as Parker was giving Eliza a bath.

Jorgensen murdered the mother and daughter, tortured the family dog, wrote a suicide note, then shot and killed himself in the back yard, Streeter said.

"Landon presented himself in a manner that ultimately was not who he really was," Streeter said.

Streeter, speaking on behalf of the Parker family, spoke by telephone toThe Salt Lake Tribune on Monday. AJ Parker's father, Barry Parker, also spoke briefly with the newspaper, to confirm what Streeter said and discuss a few points Streeter didn't know about.

Streeter spent most of the interview talking about the Parker family, as opposed to the murders.

Streeter moved to Washington County from Pennsylvania years ago. AJ Parker's father, Barry Parker, is his best friend, and Barry Parker and his wife, Adele, visited Streeter and fell in love with southwest Utah, too.

While Barry and Adele Parker were still trying to sell their house in Pennsylvania, AJ Parker decided to move to southwest Utah, Streeter said. She was raising her daughter Eliza.

"What attracted her to the place was it was such a beautiful place and such a safe place to raise her daughter Eliza," Streeter said.

AJ Parker bought her A-frame house last May, and began taking her daughter fishing at the nearby reservoirs and riding ATVs. Her parents soon bought their own house in Central.

Eliza was the type of girl who dressed up in a knight's costume to play swords with Streeter's son, he said, and then let Streeter's 13-year-old daughter put makeup on her and dress as a ballerina. Eliza had a tea set and would ask Streeter's daughter or wife to play with her and the tea set when they came to visit. Eliza was also imaginative and would pick up sticks and stones and stack them and play with them.

"Eliza herself brought joy to every room she was in," Streeter said. "She was care-free. She had a contagious smile and laugh."

The elder Parkers were helping raise Eliza. The girl called her grandparents "Pappy" and "Grammy," Streeter said.

AJ Parker took a clerical position with Intermountain Heathcare and worked at different hospitals and clinics in southwest Utah, according to a spokeswoman for IHC. While at work, she met Jorgensen, who was a courier for IHC.

Jorgensen was a 2006 graduate of Pine View High School in St. George. In Internet postings, Jorgensen said he was a Marine veteran and was "medically discharged for my back issues." After the discharge he became a firearms instructor.

Streeter doesn't know what sparked the relationship between AJ Parker and Jorgensen, but he said Barry and Adele Parker were supportive. The couple "embraced him as a son."

Streeter acknowledged that AJ Parker and Jorgensen sometimes fought. Neighbors could hear the yelling. Streeter described it as "typical spats" young people have. The pair was not violent, Streeter said. The Washington County Sheriff's Office has said there were no domestic disturbance reports between the couple.

"If [AJ] would have felt threatened by Landon, she would have called her dad," Streeter said.

Streeter doesn't know what prompted AJ Parker to end the relationship. AJ Parker had the day off from work Thursday. Sometime that morning, AJ Parker was bathing Eliza so she'd be ready for afternoon kindergarten.

Jorgensen shot them both in the bathroom, Streeter said. At some point, Jorgensen covered their bodies in linens.

The family had a brown, mixed-breed, short-haired dog. Streeter said Jorgensen slit the dog's throat and beat it with a hammer. The dogwas found next to AJ Parker's body.

"It shows a very, very deep-seated rage that was not evident on the surface prior to this," Streeter said of Jorgensen's actions.

It's not clear Jorgensen's suicide note was written before or after 10:39 a.m. That's the time, Streeter said, that Jorgensen tagged AJ Parker's parents and sister in a Facebook post and wrote, "Sorry everyone."

Streeter said Barry Parker went to his daughter's house about 11:45 a.m. to say hello. He saw Jorgensen dead in the back yard from what appeared to be a shotgun blast. Then Barry Parker found his daughter and granddaughter.

The dog was still alive, Streeter said, and remained alive hours after sheriff's deputies arrived. Animal control agents eventually removed the dog from the house before taking it somewhere to be euthanized.

Barry Parker, in his interview with the newspaper, would not go into detail about the contents of the suicide note. But the father and grandfather said the note lacked emotion when referring to AJ and Eliza Parker.

"He gave times and what occurred at a specific time and how he executed that morning's events," Barry Parker said. "It was sort of like dictation up to his own death."

"It was more like reading a crime report than a suicide letter," Barry Parker added.

The only time Jorgensen expressed any emotion, Barry Parker said, was when Jorgensen referred to himself.

"He was disgusted at himself for letting that situation escalate out of control," Barry Parker said.

Barry Parker thinks he missed Jorgensen's suicide by 10 or 15 minutes. He said he's "disgusted" with Jorgensen.

"What we're experiencing is only a fraction of the Parkers' pain," Streeter said. Jorgensen's "actions have rippled across the country thousands of miles. It's brought grown men to their knees."

Attorney Jay Winward, speaking for the Jorgensen family, said they do not know why Jorgensen killed AJ and Eliza Parker. Winward said the Jorgensens have "deep sorrow" for the victims.

"For the Jorgensens, these events are difficult to understand and likely no reasonable explanation will ever be found," Winward said.

He said the Jorgensens are planning a private memorial.

Streeter said that when the state medical examiner releases the bodies of AJ and Eliza Parker, the family plans to fly them back to the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania for burial.

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

Twitter: @natecarlisle