CASPER, Wyo. — A Casper man pleaded guilty to kidnapping and sexually abusing a Glenrock toddler days before his trial was scheduled to begin in Douglas.
On Wednesday, Robert J. Parks entered Alford pleas to first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and aggravated kidnapping. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop the charge of felony larceny and would allow the remaining sentences to run concurrent to one another, according to Parks’ attorney, Scott Powers.
An Alford plea carries the same weight as a guilty plea, although the defendant is not obliged to admit wrongdoing. The defendant does admit that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict him or her.
Parks' trial had been scheduled to begin Tuesday, according to Converse County District Court officials.
The 2-year-old girl’s mother reported her daughter missing about 9:30 a.m. on May 19, 2012. She told an officer she had last seen her daughter about 3 a.m. The missing child report prompted an Amber Alert. About the same time, a neighbor notified authorities that his sport-utility vehicle was missing.
A few hours later, Converse County sheriff's deputies found the neighbor’s SUV near Duncan Ranch off Boxelder Road south of Glenrock, according to an affidavit. The child was alone inside, naked.
Officials said cellphone records placed Parks in Glenrock at 3:15 a.m. and then about eight miles south about 5:59 a.m. near Boxelder Road. An unidentified witness told police he or she picked up Parks near the vehicle. The citizen's tip led the deputy to the abandoned vehicle about 12:30 p.m. on May 19, 2012. The child was taken to the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper, where the deputy’s suspicion of sexual assault was confirmed.
Parks told police he and the neighbor ran out of gas, prompting them to abandon the vehicle, according to the affidavit. The neighbor told police he had not driven the vehicle in some time and had not been in it that morning.
Officials said biological evidence and Parks’ identification card tied him to the alleged crimes. He pleaded not guilty to all of the charges in June.
Powers said the plea agreement did not specify a sentencing cap, meaning prosecutors are free to argue for the maximum penalty afforded by statute. In Wyoming, that means 20 years for kidnapping and 50 years for first-degree sexual abuse of a minor.
An official sentencing hearing will be held at a later date.