The two men charged with murder in a string of burglaries in 2014 are pointing fingers at each other as prosecutors try to pick apart their stories and send both to prison for life.
Timothy Parlin entered a Travis County courtroom Tuesday and denied killing three Austin residents — choir teacher Kathy Blair and elderly married couple Billie and Sidney Shelton.
A month ago, the other man charged with murder, Shawn Gant-Benalcazar, avoided a conviction when a single juror refused to find him guilty of killing Blair.
On the first day of Parlin’s trial, his lawyers told the jury Gant-Benalcazar killed all three of them and that Parlin had no knowledge of his friend’s intentions when Parlin drove him to the victims’ homes to steal jewelry and other valuables. That claim contradicts sworn statements from Gant-Benalcazar, who testified at his trial last month that Parlin killed Blair while Gant-Benalcazar was napping in his car. A mistrial was declared in Gant-Benalcazar’s case when jury deliberations stalled after 18 hours.
Gant-Benalcazar, 33, never was charged in connection to the Shelton deaths despite public comments from then-Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo that both men were responsible. He is scheduled to be retried for Blair’s murder in October.
In opening statements Tuesday, prosecutor Andrea Austin said Parlin was vengeful after a work dispute with Blair’s landlord and was “bent on getting his fair shake in life.”
Detectives investigating the killings were drawn to Parlin after discovering he had been fired for goofing off while he was supposed to be digging a ditch at Blair’s home in Northwest Austin. Details of that slaying resembled the Shelton killing that happened nine days later, leading investigators to believe the crimes were related. Police linked Parlin to the Sheltons through his wife, who performed massages on the couple at their North Central Austin home in Brentwood. Parlin also attended the same church as the Sheltons.
Additional evidence prosecutors say ties the men to the killings includes Blair’s blood found on the passenger seat of Parlin’s sister’s car when police searched it. They also say a video taken by a neighbor looking for deer on the night of Blair’s death shows someone resembling Gant-Benalcazar getting out of a car parked near Blair’s home. A bloody shoe print found in Blair’s home matches a shoe worn by Gant-Benalcazar, prosecutors say.
Gant-Benalcazar told police that he stabbed Blair in the neck at the direction of Parlin, who had threatened his family if he did not cooperate. But Gant-Benalcazar testified in his trial that the confession was forced and that he was under the impression he would be arrested no matter what he told the police.
Detectives tracked down jewelry and a shotgun they say belonged to the Sheltons. A man found with the jewelry said he got it from Parlin, who revealed the previous owner is “someone who’s not going to need it anymore,” prosecutors said Tuesday.
But Parlin’s lawyers say there is no physical evidence that he was in either of the homes.
“Shawn Gant-Benalcazar committed them on his own,” defense attorney Keith Lauerman said. “There’s no plan they can prove. This man and those hands never committed these murders.”
Prosecutors revealed gruesome details about the Shelton slayings, saying that both were struck repeatedly in the head with an unknown object and choked. Billie Shelton, 83, was stabbed several times in the face, including in her eye. Her husband, Sidney, 85, had been failing health and was supported by an oxygen tank.
Parlin, 52, faces five counts related to capital murder. He will be sentenced to life in prison if he’s convicted of any of them.