An example of a person raising a knife to stab something. Photo from Pixabay.
An example of a person raising a knife to stab something. Photo from Pixabay.

The California Supreme Court refused Wednesday to review the case of a man who was already serving time for murder when he was convicted of killing a woman who was stabbed 16 times and whose head was bludgeoned with an eight-pound weight in her Silver Lake apartment more than four decades ago.

Harold Parkinson, now 63, was sentenced in February 2021 to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the August 1980 killing of Stephanie Sommers.

Jurors convicted Parkinson in November 2019 of first-degree murder and found true the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a rape, along with allegations that Parkinson used a weight and a knife during the attack on the 36-year-old woman.

The jury did not hear that Parkinson was already serving a 15-years-to-life state prison sentence for an unrelated murder. He admitted a second special circumstance allegation — murder with a prior murder conviction — outside the jury’s presence after the verdict.

In sentencing Parkinson, then-Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy called it a “very degrading, horrible, violent crime” and saying she believed there was “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” that Parkinson was “responsible for this.”

Sommers’ killing had gone unsolved for several decades until cold case detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department received a lead that Parkinson could be a suspect in the killing, Deputy District Attorney Lowrie Mendoza told the jury.

A DNA sample collected from Parkinson was consistent with the DNA profile from a sperm sample collected from the victim, who had grown up in Redondo Beach, Mendoza told jurors. Sommers had briefly been married to a man, but had subsequently told some of her friends that she was a lesbian, the prosecutor said.

Parkinson’s trial attorney, Jesus Lopez, told jurors that Sommers “had sex with Mr. Parkinson” within five days of her death. But the defense lawyer said there was “not one shred of evidence … that will place Mr. Parkinson in that apartment,” where she had struggled with her assailant before being slain.

“Mr. Parkinson did not kill her. Mr. Parkinson did not rape her,” Lopez said. “The simple truth is that Mr. Parkinson did not commit this crime.”

In a statement read on her behalf, Sheridan Roberts called her sister “a force for good.”

“Why did you pick on a defenseless woman?” she wrote in the statement, directly addressing the defendant, noting that the family subsequently had to clean up the crime scene.

Shortly before Parkinson’s sentence was handed down, the victim’s nephew, Kelly Roberts, told the judge that he and his aunt were “very close” and that it was “so unlike her” when she failed to pick him up for a trip to Magic Mountain as a belated birthday gift.

During the trial, Roberts testified that he waited for his “Auntie Steph” for two days and had unsuccessfully been trying to reach her. He told jurors that his mother ordered him out of the house when the phone rang and he went crying to a neighbor, who walked him back home, went inside the house and came back out to inform him that his aunt had been “brutally murdered.”

In an April 26 ruling, a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal found that the evidence of Parkinson’s guilt in Sommers’ murder was “overwhelming” and that he was “conclusively identified through forensic DNA analysis as being the person who had sex with Sommers at the time she was killed.”

“The forensic evidence also proved that Sommers did not get up after having sex; rather, she was either raped and then murdered, or beaten unconscious and/or killed and then raped,” the appellate court justices concluded in their ruling, which rejected the defense’s contention that there were errors in Parkinson’s trial.

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