Suspect pleads not guilty to charges in fire that killed Hamilton firefighter

Lester Parker

HAMILTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Lester Parker entered a not-guilty plea to charges of aggravated arson and murder in the death of Patrick Wolterman.

He appeared in court Tuesday.

Members of Wolterman’s family and area firefighters were in court for Parker’s arraignment, according to our partners at WLWT.

Wolterman died when he fell through the floor of a burning Pater Avenue home on Dec. 28, 2015. An autopsy revealed that Wolterman died of smoke inhalation.

READ MORE: Hamilton firefighter dies fighting house fire

Investigators determined that the fire was deliberately set.

They declined to comment on a motive or cause but said, Parker didn’t act alone and more arrests are expected.

During Tuesday’s arraignment, Parker’s attorney, Richard Hyde asked for a reasonable bond.

“He has no criminal record as far as I can see. He is an honorably discharged veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He’s a law-abiding citizen,” Hyde said. “He’s here. His family’s here. He has nowhere to go.”

READ MORE: Hamilton community says farewell to fallen firefighter

Not wanting to take any chances of Parker skipping town and his next court appearance, Butler County prosecutor, Mike Gmoser, asked for a high bond.

“I don’t want him to be in a situation where he gambles on that appearance and based upon certain facts and circumstances concerning his history with respect to Las Vegas and other gambling episodes in his life, I want to make sure that he’s not gambling with respect to the sentence that may be imposed in this case, and I want to make sure that he is in attendance,” Gmoser said.

Gmoser didn’t elaborate on what he meant by gambling episodes. After the fire, Parker’s family said he and his wife, Bertha, had been in Vegas the morning of the fire. Investigators won’t say if there’s any truth to that.

Judge Michael Oster set Parker’s bond at $500,000. He’ll return to court Monday for a hearing.

On Tuesday, WLWT learned of a recent civil case where Parker was listed as the defendant.

After the deadly fire, Parker filed a claim with his insurance company for physical loss to the home and personal property inside.

The Cincinnati Insurance Company claimed Parker and his wife didn’t cooperate in its investigation.

Court documents claim the couple did not provide requested cellphone records from around the time of the fire, and they would not submit to an examination under oath.

In that case, the court sided with the insurance company.

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