Family of police officer fights to keep his murderer behind bars

Duncan_The family of the only police officer ever killed in the line of duty in Duncan is fighting to keep his murderer behind bars.  It has been almost 24 years since Officer Jack James was gunned down at Clear Creek Lake, and since then, two juries have convicted Arthur Parks for his murder.  Both juries recommended Parks spend life in prison, but he now is up for parole for the fourth time in a decade.

The James family says it has been difficult to process.  Every three years since 2000, they have had to relive the horrible, life-changing, event in an effort to convince the Pardon and Parole Board to keep Parks locked up - now, they have to do it again.

Cheryl James Huffmaster remembers the shots that he and her husband heard from their home the night James was killed.  "We heard shots fire, and he jumped up and grabbed his gun and said, 'I've got to go across the lake, somebody might need help.'  He said he'd be back, and we never saw him again."

Arthur Parks was shooting a gun into the water and ambuhed Officer James when he walked up to him.  "Once he was down, he was shot twice more in the head, and I heard those shots and I knew they didn't sound like the first ones," said Huffmaster.  "I can think of no more heinous or atrocious crime that has been committed against somebody," said Duncan Police Chief Jeff Johnson.  "My father prosecuted the case," said District Attorney Brett Burns.  "I was a kid - probably 15 - and I saw the crime scene photos.  That kind of spurred me to want to be a prosecutor - to right that wrong."

Prosecutors, police, and Huffmaster say they want to ensure Arthur Parks never sees freedom for his crime.  Jurors did not give him the death sentence and life-without-parole was not an option in the 1980s when Parks was convicted - not once, but twice.  The second conviction came the first conviction was overturned.  "That jury believed they were giving the man a life sentence, and that's what he deserves."  They say they will protest each time Parks comes up for parole as long as he is alive.

Under the law there are two phases of the parole process.  "We're not allowed to protest in person on the first stage," said Burns.  "What we do with some of the violent offenders - like Mr. Parks - is we will protest by letter, and say please don't pass him to the next stage."

Burns and Huffmaster say the Pardon and Parole Board has the ability to put Parks on a five-year cycle for parole consideration.  The past four times he has come up, they have refused to do so.  Parks' hearing for the first phase of parole consideration is set for later this month.

Count on 7News to let you know what they decide.