STUART, Fla. — A Florida man who was sentenced to death twice for his role in the 1982 murder of an 18-year-old woman was ordered to serve a life sentence with the possibility of parole in 25 years.
J.B. “Pig” Parker, 60, of Fort Pierce, was sentenced Friday in a court in Stuart. He had been convicted in the April 27, 1982, death of Frances Julia Slater, 18, of Jensen Beach, a convenience store clerk who had been robbed, kidnapped and stabbed, TCPalm.com reported. Parker and three accomplices then fatally shot Slater execution-style and dumped her body on a remote road west of Stuart. It was supposed to be Slater’s last night working at the store, according to The Stuart News.
Slater was the granddaughter of Ralph Evinrude, founder of the marine outboard motor company that bears his name; and actress and singer Frances Langford, the news organization reported. Although her family was wealthy, Slater wanted to invest in convenience stores and worked at one to learn the business, according to The New York Times.
All four men were convicted of kidnapping, murder and other charges.
Parker’s life sentence was the only punishment option available once prosecutors met with Slater’s family to announce the state would no longer seek the death penalty, TCPalm.com reported.
“We are where we are not because of fancy defense tactics or defense attorneys, or new evidence or new facts,” Chief Assistant State Attorney Stephen Gosnell told reporters after the sentence was handed down. “That’s not what caused the ultimate predicament that we’re in here, where we had to withdraw the death penalty. It’s happened because of the erosion of the case over 40 years.”
On the date of Slater’s death, Parker, Alphonso Cave, John Earl Bush and Terry W. “Bo Gator” Johnson, drove from Fort Pierce south on U.S. and stopped at a Li’l General convenience store just north of the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart. The men had been drinking gin all day when they decided to rob it, TCPalm.com reported.
Slater was working alone and sweeping the floor when two of the men walked in. They took $134 and forced Slater into Bush’s 1974 Buick Century. They drove to a remote road 13 miles away and allegedly stabbed the woman before killing her with a single gunshot to the head, the news outlet reported.
Slater was the daughter of Sally Evinrude Slater Campbell, the Fort Pierce News-Tribune reported. Her stepfather was Richard “Dick” Campbell, the publisher of The Mirror, a group of weekly newspapers based out of Jensen Beach. Her twin sister, Cathy Slater Springston, died in 2019.
“You didn’t only murder Franny, you killed Cathy too, because she couldn’t live without her identical twin,” Sally Slater, now in her 80s, told Parker on Friday during an impact statement in court. “Both are dead now, thanks to you. Wish you the best of luck in the open population.”
Parker was first sentenced to death in 1983 after an 8-4 jury vote, according to TCPalm.com. He won an appeal in 1998 and during a second sentencing phase in 2000, a different jury voted for execution by an 11-1 margin.
His sentence was vacated again after a 2016 order by the Florida Supreme Court that required a unanimous vote, the Naples Daily News reported.
Based on testimony from Bush’s girlfriend, Georgeann Williams, Parker, then 19, was believed to have shot Slater, according to TCPalm.com. After the trial, a fellow inmate allegedly overheard a conversation between Bush and Cave that indicated Cave, then 23, was the shooter, according to the news organization.
Due to the publicity surrounding the trial, Parker’s case was moved from Martin County to Lake County, where he was found guilty, The Stuart News reported. Bush was found guilty by a Lee County jury in Fort Myers, and Cave was convicted in Pinellas County, according to the newspaper. Johnson was found guilty in a Broward County court.
Parker, Cave and Bush were sentenced to death.
Bush, 38, was executed on Oct. 21, 1996, in Florida’s electric chair, according to The Associated Press.
In 1974, Bush had been sentenced to 30 years in prison for rape and robbery. He was released in 1979 and released from parole in December 1981, four months before Slater was killed, the news organization reported.
Cave, 64, has exhausted his appeals and remains on death row at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, according to TCPalm.com.
Johnson was passed out and did not participate in the murder. He was sentenced to life in prison and was released in 2008, according to the news outlet. He was under community supervision before he was arrested in November in St. Lucie County on drug possession charges.
Evinrude died on May 21, 1986, in Stuart, according to the AP. He was 78.
Langford, who toured with Bob Hope during World War II and was known as the “Sweetheart of the Fighting Fronts,” died on July 11, 2005, according to The Washington Post. She was 92.
In 2007, Sally Slater told The Stuart News that she no longer read newspapers.
“The reporting always called her an heiress, which she wasn’t, and they fix on Ralph and Frances as if we weren’t involved,” Sally Slater told the News.
Sharon Evinrude, Frances Slater’s older sister, also addressed Parker in court on Friday, TCPalm.com reported. She held up a photo of “Franny,” who she described as “witty, spontaneous, energetic and thoughtful.”
She said that the twin sisters are “together and working as a team against you.”
“Pig Parker, I wish you nothing but ill health and I wish you mess with the wrong person and you are taken out in prison,” Sharon Evinrude said. “So keep on smiling, but Franny will get the last laugh.”
Information from newspaper archives was used in compiling this report.