It was the night of May 24, 1987, when 24-year-old Kenneth Parks had fallen asleep while watching TV in his living room. At some point during that night Parks had woken up, but rather than going back to bed, he did something very unexpected. He grabbed his shoes and keys and climbed into his car. Leaving his front door wide open, Parks proceeded to drive approximately 15 miles to the home of his in-laws.
Pulling into the driveway of Barbara Ann and Denis Woods, Parks exited the vehicle, grabbed a tire iron from the trunk, and then let himself into the home using his key. Grabbing a knife from the kitchen, Parks proceeded to climb the stairs, creeping into the couple’s bedroom as they slept. Parks first attacked his father-in-law, strangling and stabbing him, before attacking his mother-in-law, Barbara Ann. Parks stabbed and beat Barbara Ann to death.
After attacking his in-laws, Parks returned to his vehicle. Covered in blood and suffering from cut tendons in both hands, Parks proceeded to drive to the police station. Arriving at approximately 4:45 AM, Parks then made a full confession to the murder of Barbara Ann Woods, and attempted murder of Denis Woods.
“I just killed someone with my bare hands; oh my God, I just killed someone; I’ve just killed two people; my God, I’ve just killed two people with my hands; my God, I’ve just killed two people. My hands; I just killed two people. I killed them; I just killed two people; I’ve just killed my mother- and father-in-law. I stabbed and beat them to death. It’s all my fault.”
It was later determined that Parks had committed the murder while sleepwalking. After undergoing a series of psychological evaluations, it was observed that Parks experienced abnormal brain activity during certain states of sleep, possibly brought on by stress and anxiety.
At the time of the murder, Parks had become a new father. This change in lifestyle, combined with the anxiety over gambling and other debts began to weigh heavily on Parks. Parks’ gambling problem led him to steal $32,000 from his company. Once his boss learned of the theft he was dismissed from his position and the company had filed a lawsuit against Parks. The mounting debt, joblessness, criminal litigation, and new infant daughter at home is believed to have been what led to episodes of sleepwalking.
Prior to falling asleep on the night of May 24, Parks had all of the above in mind, plus the obligation of fixing his in-laws’ furnace as he had promised them, which he had been planning to do later that following day. Experts in the case believe that Parks may have been driving to his in-laws’ home in order to fix the furnace, but then once he reached their home, he became startled and started attacking them.
Though the defense was an unusual one, it was ruled that the state failed to show beyond a reasonable doubt that Parks had been conscious during the attacks. Parks was acquitted of the murder of Barbara Ann Woods and the attack on Denis Woods.