"When you murdered Corey, you killed a piece of so many people. I can't even begin to imagine what was in your mind when you crept into her room, hacked her body and did your other perverted things to her. The only explanation is that you are a monster."
- Bruce Parker, Corey's father
It was the 27th of November 1998. A Friday. The day after Thanksgiving. Twenty five year old Corey Parker was scheduled to work that day at Ragtime Tavern in Atlantic Beach. She worked there as a waitress. Corey was from Rochester in New York but moved to Jacksonville, Florida, United States for college. She loved the beach and really liked living there. She stayed in Florida for the Thanksgiving break as even though she had no classes, she wanted to work.
Corey had a large group of friends and was reliable so when she didn't show up for work, her coworkers knew something was wrong. The last time anyone had spoken to her was the night before Thanksgiving. On the Wednesday night,Corey went to a bar with friends. She left there around 1am. Nobody heard from her on the Thursday. So when she didn't show up for work on the Friday morning, one of the cooks from the restaurant where she worked went to her apartment. Her apartment was close to the restaurant. Corey lived in a ground floor apartment and when her coworker got there, he found it was locked. He knocked on the door but there was no answer. His manager asked him to look in the window.
He went to the side of the apartment and looked into her bedroom window. He saw Corey's foot and he believed he also saw blood on her foot. Her told his manager and they called the police and asked them to do a welfare check.
Police entered Corey's bedroom and found a brutal and horrific crime scene. Corey had been stabbed to death. There was blood all over Corey, the bed and the walls. Her body was posed in a sexually suggestive manner, with her legs open, but there was no evidence found to indicate she had been sexually assaulted.
The clothes Corey wore to the bar with friends the night before Thanksgiving were folded neatly at the end of her bed. The police believed that whoever attacked her either entered the apartment when she was asleep in bed or was already in her apartment waiting for her to come home, maybe hiding in her closet, and attacked her as soon as she got into bed to go to sleep.
Nothing was out of place in the apartment. There was no sign of any forced entry. It was clear the struggle took place in her bedroom. Police discovered a blood stain in the kitchen beside the sink and a bloodstain on the outside and inside of the windowsill in the kitchen. That led police to believe that whoever attacked Corey had entered and left via the window in the kitchen. They believed they may not have used the front door as there was a light outside it.
The Medical Examiner, Margarita Arruza, carried out an Autopsy. Corey was stabbed 101 times.
There were 101 stab and slash wounds all over her body, 54 of them were inflicted after she died. Corey fought for her life. She blocked one knife thrust with her knee and managed to grab the knife which left her with a deep gash in her left hand. There were defensive wounds on her right hand. The fatal wound was a slash to her neck. Two of Corey's major arteries in her neck were severed. As a result of that wound, Corey lost consciousness and died. The Medical Examiner could not determine whether just one knife was used or not.
After she died, Corey was repeatedly stabbed in the abdomen and face.
The Medical Examiner said:
"When you die by bleeding, it's not an immediate death."
Due to the violent nature of the attack and the number of stab wounds, police believed that the attacker knew Corey. They questioned all of her friends and coworkers. Two coworkers in particular seemed obsessed with her. One of them, Eric, admitted he fantasized about her and the other, Tiffany, said she had been out with Corey the night before Thanksgiving. Eric told police he made Thanksgiving dinner for Corey and invited her over to his house but she did not go.
Some people who knew Corey believed that Tiffany was infatuated with her. Tiffany told police that she was out with Corey and other friends the night before Thanksgiving. She said she left the same time as Corey but they left in different cars. Corey was going home and Tiffany was going on to another bar. Tiffany told police she rang Corey at 2am and Corey told her she was sleeping. Tiffany drove to Corey's apartment at 4am but it appeared that Corey was not up so she left.
However, when police looked into Tiffany's story, they discovered via phone records that Corey did not receive a call from Tiffany after they left the bar that night. And police wondered why she would try to place herself at the crime scene.
Despite the strange behavior of two of Corey's coworkers, there was no evidence that linked either of them to the crime. Police had obtained DNA from the bloodstains found in Corey's apartment and on strands of hair found in her underwear. And they were not a match.
Police spoke to Corey’s boyfriend, David Wilt. It was clear from the outset that David was not involved as he was out of State at his parent's house for Thanksgiving and his alibi checked out. They were only in a relationship for three weeks when Corey was murdered.
Police received a tip from someone who lived in Corey’s apartment block. Corey had moved in to that apartment in September 1998 and the person who lived in the same block as her noticed a Peeping Tom looking into her windows. They gave a description to police but they could not identify the man.
Eighteen months after Corey's murder, police issued a new Appeal and announced a $20000 reward for any new information provided that would lead to an arrest.
Due to the renewed interest in the case, people in the area began to think back about that time. A woman called Julia Sedgwick called the police after she discussed the matter with two of her friends one night.
Julia told police at the time of Corey's murder, she worked with seventeen year old Robert Erik Denney. Police spoke to Robert at the time as he lived in an apartment in the block across from Corey’s apartment. It was just 35 yards from her apartment. At the time, police did not notice anything unusual. Robert told them he did not know Corey and he had no visible injuries. He was not a suspect in the case.
Robert Erik Denney
Julia told police about a frantic conversation she had with Robert in January 1999. She said that he called her at 3.30am one morning and told her he needed her help. He was hysterical. Robert explained there had been a death in the family and he needed to return to Texas.
At that time, they worked together at a restaurant in Jacksonville Beach. She told the police that he was “frantic, pacing, smoking cigarettes...almost manic."
He asked for Julia’s help packing his bags. When she was at his apartment, he told her about a waitress in a neighboring apartment that he wanted to date. She said that as he said this, he was calm. He pointed out the apartment to her. Julia figured out a year later it was Corey's apartment.
Police discovered that Robert now lived in Maryland with a woman he met online. They asked him for a sample of his DNA but he refused. Police began a surveillance operation. He was very careful. When he smoked a cigarette , he always took the butt with him. Robert's boss, John Garufi, told officers that Robert "became very paranoid" at work and saved his cigarette butts in a garbage bag and took them home at night. When police offered him water, he refused to drink it. But they finally got a break when they watched him on his breaks from work. On one occasion, Robert spit on the ground as he paced and smoked cigarettes outside his employer's back door. As soon as he left work that day, police scraped up the spit and took it to the FBI lab in Washington.
Police matched his DNA to some strands of hair and a smear of blood found in Corey's apartment. Robert was arrested and charged with murder in November 2000.
It was the Prosecution's case that Robert lived in an apartment 35 yards from Corey's apartment. His apartment was on the first floor, hers was on the ground floor in the block across so he had a direct line of sight into Corey's apartment. They believed he watched her as she got ready for her night out on the night before Thanksgiving and either entered when she was out or just after she returned via her kitchen window.
Corey was found naked and in a sexually suggestive pose so even though there was no evidence found of a sexual assault, they believed the motive was a sexual one. Robert's sister referred to him as the night creeper. She said that when he lived with her, she would sometimes wake during the night to find him staring at her. He stayed up late to watch pornography.
Robert Erik Denney
The Prosecution told the Court that they believed that a lighter that was found in Corey’s bedroom belonged to Robert. It was their case that it fell out of his pocket during the struggle with Corey. It was found next to Corey’s body. His ex girlfriend, Heather Champion, testified that the Zippo lighter looked like the one Robert owned.
The Court heard Robert told friends he would fantasize about a woman next door.
It was the Defense’s case that Corey could have been murdered by a number of different people and highlighted the fact that there were still unidentified pieces of evidence. Some of the DNA obtained from the hair strands had not been matched to anyone.
Robert testified at his Trial. He told the Court that he did not know Corey, he had never even seen her before. When he saw police in the area the day after Thanksgiving he thought it was the result of a drug bust.
Robert testified in relation to the lighter. He said that the lighter was not his and he claimed he had a Zippo lighter that had a Celtic Cross, not the National Air Traffic Controllers Association lighter that was found in Corey’s bedroom. But the Prosecution told the Court that Zippo didn't start making the lighters with the Celtic Cross until after Corey's murder.
When Robert was asked how his blood and hair got into Corey’s apartment, he said it was a possibility that a neighborhood cat could have carried it in or he could have sneezed hard enough for DNA particles to enter her apartment.
Robert was found guilty of murder. The Jury deliberated for just 45 minutes. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Robert Denney is not the only Denney boy to be convicted of such a heinous crime. His brother, Patrick Denney, was also convicted of murder. He stabbed a woman some 96 times.
Robert continues to maintain his innocence. His lawyers are seeking a new Trial. They claim the state's DNA expert lied on the stand when he said he performed all the DNA analysis. They said that it was mostly done by another analyst, and mistakes were made including one hair root producing five different DNA profiles.
They are also seeking a new Trial based on their belief that some evidence was mishandled or tampered with. They claim a packet sent to one lab had seven hairs, but when it went to another lab there were 14 hairs.
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