- The Washington Times - Friday, October 25, 2002

From combined dispatches

Claudine Parker, 54, was shot to death Sept. 21 in the parking lot outside the liquor store in Montgomery, Ala., where she worked and had just closed up for the night.

For more than a month, Mrs. Parker's death had been a painful scar and an unsolved mystery in the Alabama state capital.

No one suspected that the killing and the wounding of her co-worker, Kellie Adams, 24 could be related to the headline-making string of sniper attacks that began 10 days later and 800 miles to the north in Maryland.

Police said the suspects' own taunts trapped them. Authorities said they received a call on the sniper task force tip line taking responsibility for the attacks and for something in "Montgomery." That prompted a phone call Sunday from task-force investigators to Alabama, and connections began to emerge.

Mrs. Parker and Miss Adams had just closed up the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) liquor store at 7 p.m. on Sept. 21. The store liquor sales are operated by the state government in Alabama is located on Zelda Road, a busy strip of fast-food franchises and shopping centers on the affluent east side of Montgomery.

The two ABC clerks were on their way to their vehicles in the parking lot when a black gunman wearing a green shirt and khaki shorts opened fire. Miss Adams was seriously wounded and Mrs. Parker who was just three months away from retirement was killed.

The killer went through one of the women's purses before running away. Police officers in a patrol car at a Taco Bell across the street chased the robber. One officer chased the gunman on foot, but lost him when he ran behind a Captain D's and a Krystal restaurant nearby.

Montgomery police did not identify the officer who chased the ABC liquor gunman, but said he came just a few feet away from catching him and possibly thwarting the murder rampage that began Oct. 2 in Montgomery County, Md.

Police say there are "some very good similarities" between sniper suspect John Lee Malvo, 17, and the ABC liquor suspect. But the Alabama killer used a pistol that doesn't match the .223-caliber rifle in the sniper attacks, and no one has explained why Mr. Malvo or fellow sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad, 41, would have been robbing an Alabama liquor store.

However, a Malvo fingerprint was reportedly found on a gun magazine discovered at the ABC liquor scene, and the call to the sniper tip line led investigators to make the connection to the killing of Mrs. Parker.

The slain store clerk attended historic Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King was pastor when he led the famous 1955 Montgomery bus boycott. Active in civil rights causes, she began a tour program at the church.

"She sang in the choir. She started a young-adult program. She was a pillar," said the Rev. Mike Thurman, pastor of the church.

A candlelight vigil was held in Mrs. Parker's honor after she was killed, and hundreds attended her Sept. 29 funeral, which filled the sanctuary at Dexter Avenue to overflowing.

In response to Mrs. Parker's death, about 50 state employees staged a protest demanding better security, including security cameras and armed guards, at ABC stores.

"It's a shame we have to lose somebody before there is concern," Angel Wilson, an ABC clerk, said at the Oct. 12 protest. "We need to take a stand before someone else is killed."

More than a month after the shooting, Mrs. Parker's pastor said yesterday he was still "dumbfounded" by her death.

"She was a Sunday-school teacher," Mr. Thurman said. "Good people don't die like this. They live to be old."

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