Petersburg pair sentenced for bar death

By BILL POWELL
Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — Two Pike County men charged after a Oct. 12, 2013 altercation at a Jasper bar resulted in a Dubois man’s death were sentenced today in Dubois Circuit Court after submitting plea agreements.

Osborn
Parks

Petersburg residents Leslie M. Osborn Jr., 24, and Zachary D. Parks, 23, were initially charged a year ago with Class C felony counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with an incident at J.R.’s Bar, 23 Clay St., that led to the death of Timothy R. Stafford, 41, of 4201 N. Second St., Dubois.

On Thursday, plea agreements in which the charges were amended to Class D felony counts of criminal recklessness resulting in serious bodily injury were accepted.

Both men were sentenced to three years at the Dubois County Security Center. Osborn will serve his sentence as one and a half years on adult day reporting and one and a half years on supervised probation. Parks will serve his three-year sentence on work release.

Dubois County Prosecutor Kevin Crouse addressed the case later in the day, saying it was not the resolution anyone would have preferred, but it provided the Stafford family with the closure they want and need.

The 2013 incident unfolded at 3 a.m. on a Saturday. Authorities responded to the Clay Street establishment after the bar’s owner called the Jasper Police Department’s nonemergency line and informed officers that a man on the ground outside the bar was unresponsive, bleeding and not breathing.

Police and emergency medical technicians arrived to find Stafford bleeding from the nose and mouth.

Stafford was taken to Memorial Hospital in Jasper and was then flown by LifeFlight helicopter to St. Mary’s Medical Center in Evansville. He succumbed to his injuries four days later.

After speaking with several eyewitnesses, police announced they determined two unnamed individuals had gone outside the bar and had gotten into a verbal and physical altercation. Both Parks and Osborn were reportedly friends with one of the men in the altercation. Stafford knew the other man, according to authorities.

Once he was outside the bar, police had reported, Stafford tried to intervene in the altercation and was confronted by Osborn. A physical fight ensued during which Osborn struck Stafford in the face at least twice, police said after their arrests.

The altercation between Osborn and Stafford was broken up by the owner of J.R.’s Bar, police said. At that time, according to witness statements, Stafford approached Parks and attempted to punch him. Parks struck Stafford in the face and rendered him unconscious, according to authorities.

Crouse said the prosecution was prepared to conduct a jury trial of Parks and Osborn that had been scheduled for Sept. 22.  Shortly before the scheduled start of the trial, the defense proposed the possible resolution of the charges.
 
Parks and Osborn had previously asserted in a court filing that they acted in self defense, based upon their contention that they had walked outside of the bar to observe a fight, that Stafford had followed them outside, and that Stafford had thrown the first punches, according to Crouse.

Osborn also asserted that his altercation with Stafford had ended and that Stafford’s death was solely attributable to Parks.

Crouse said it was not disputed that Parks landed a punch that appeared to knock Stafford out and that Stafford fell backward and struck his head on the parking lot.  That blunt force impact was likely the fatal blow, Crouse said.  There were conflicting witness accounts about what happened then, but the most reliable information was that Parks and likely Osborn landed one to four additional blows after Stafford was down, Crouse added.
 
“I believe that Parks and Osborn committed the offenses charged, and that even if Stafford did what they allege it does not justify his death,” Crouse said in his statement.  “However, jury trials are uncertain.  Tim Stafford’s family has been at every hearing.  After much soul searching they decided that the possibility that Parks and Osborn could be found not guilty was not a risk they were willing to take, and that the certainty of criminal convictions through a plea agreement would help them find some small amount of peace and comfort.”

Crouse said the Stafford family was involved in the plea negotiations, and they thanked him for his efforts following the sentencing hearing.

The prosecutor, in his statement, said “our hearts go out to the Tim Stafford family” and he added that no sentence “would adequately compensate for Tim’s death.”


Contact Bill Powell at bpowell@dcherald.com.




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