Sorensen trial continues

Amber Sorensen walks into the courtroom in the Jackson County Courthouse. Sorensen, 37, is on trial for the shooting death of her boyfriend, Jarrett Parker, in February 2017 in their Edna home.

EDNA – A slain Edna man was not a perpetrator, but rather, the victim of abuse, his parents testified Wednesday.

“Amber is not the little angel everyone thinks she is,” Daryl Taylor said to jurors, recalling words his stepson had told him.

That testimony came a day after an Edna police investigator testified that Parker never refuted claims that he physically abused Amber Sorensen, his girlfriend.

About 60 people showed up Wednesday morning to watch the trial proceedings for Sorensen, who faces a murder charge after claiming she killed Parker in self-defense because he was physically abusive.

Sorensen is accused of fatally shooting Parker, 33, in the early morning hours of Feb. 7, 2017, at their mobile home in Edna.

Apart from the murder charge, she also faces charges for aggravated assault of a family member with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon causing serious bodily injury and manslaughter.

Sorensen told investigators that Parker punched her multiple times, beat her head and threw her to the ground before dragging her by the hair and throwing her onto their bed on the night of his death.

Those claims were contradicted not only by Parker’s parents but also by an investigator who testified that Sorensen’s wounds did not indicate a serious assault but rather someone simply being held by the arms.

On Wednesday, which marked the eighth day of trial and sixth day of testimony, Parkers’ mother, father and stepfather described the man as a loving father who had plans to create a home for Sorensen and her three children.

All three said they had never witnessed any evidence of Parker abusing Sorensen.

After leaving a 12-year career in the Air Force, in which he served as a military police officer and then an investigator, Parker returned to his family’s home in Edna.

In September 2015, Parker and Sorensen began dating after meeting at high school sports games, said Debra Taylor, his mother.

Parker had “an amazing relationship” with Sorensen’s children, and they often spent time together playing board games, visiting parks and joking constantly, she said.

Parker’s father and stepfather agreed with that characterization, saying the man was a loving stepfather and boyfriend.

“He said he really loved her,” testified Don Parker, Jarrett Parker’s father.

Parker planned to create a better, more secure life for Sorensen and her children, they said.

He “took every odd job he could possibly find” to buy the children clothes, toys and other amenities, his mother said.

Those children playfully referred to Parker as “Baldy,” because of his hair loss, which he took as a point of pride, she said.

Parker also planned to help Sorensen and her children move from their mobile home, which he thought was much too small for their family, into a larger house.

Parker had confided in his mother that he thought his purpose was to bring the family closer together, she said.

The couple had also revealed they planned to have additional children together despite medical issues that made conception difficult for Parker.

“I think I cried (because) I was so happy,” Taylor said.

There was also talk of marriage, and Sorensen was expecting an engagement ring soon, his stepfather said.

But Sorensen and Parker’s relationship was hardly without conflict.

Financial woes and other disagreements plagued the couple, said Taylor, who recounted several bitter arguments between them.

Unable to secure a job in law enforcement because of numerous injuries and health complications, Parker was attending college but not employed full time, his mother said.

Sorensen ran a business as a personal trainer but was unable to keep up with bills and prevent her vehicle from being repossessed, Taylor said.

When another person bought the home the couple hoped to move into one day, Parker was afraid to tell Sorensen, his mother said.

That wasn’t the only time Sorensen had intimidated Parker, his stepfather said.

During a heart-to-heart conversation, Parker had once told Daryl Taylor that Sorensen had threatened him after he confronted her about her alcohol consumption.

When Parker asked whether she should slow down her drinking after she had consumed five glasses of wine before dinner, she waved a large kitchen knife in his face and threatened to harm him, Daryl Taylor said.

Parker had also told his stepfather that Sorensen’s regular drinking inevitably led to them arguing and those arguments often ended in her being violent, Daryl Parker said.

“You ever tell me that again, I will kill you,” said Taylor, quoting his stepson.

When his stepfather expressed worry about the relationship, Parker said he could handle it, and the stepfather dropped the subject.

Although Parker rarely talked about his relationship troubles with his mother, the tension between the couple was apparent to both Taylors, she said.

One night when his mother was sleeping in her son’s old room, he returned unexpectedly, sobbing, which his mother described as dramatically uncharacteristic.

They also had disagreements at family gatherings, including a massive Thanksgiving dinner that was cut short after Sorensen and Parker suddenly left, she said. Parker had “desperately” wanted to attend that event to visit with family members he had not seen for years, she said.

His mother also recalled an instance on New Year’s Eve months before his death, in which Sorensen had called her, saying Parker had drug her by the hair out of a wedding reception. Sorensen also said she thought Parker planned to kill her that night.

That night was rehashed by Parker’s parents and stepfather repeatedly under questioning by the defense and prosecution.

Sorensen’s attorney, Stephen Cihal, questioned why the Taylors had decided to track down the couple rather than simply call.

The Taylors said they had acted in the moment and out of concern for both their son and Sorensen.

After trying to track down Sorensen and Parker on the highway, the Taylors found them just as they were pulling into their home.

What they learned in the ensuing interaction, shocked them, the Taylors said.

Sorensen was severely intoxicated, which became obvious as soon as Sorensen exited her vehicle to speak with Debra Taylor, she said.

“I was hit with this wave of alcohol, sweat and dishevelment,” said Taylor, describing Sorensen that night. “(She) stunk.”

Parker appeared sober, the Taylors said.

In fact, Daryl Taylor said, Parker was not one to drink much and rarely had more than two drinks at a time.

In an attempt to get to the bottom of what had happened, the Taylors separated Parker and Sorensen.

Alone together in the couple’s bathroom, Sorensen changed her story, telling Debra Taylor that Parker had gotten angry after seeing her dance with a groomsman, Taylor said.

“‘Can you believe that m-----f----- asked my (dance partner) did you ask permission to dance with her?’” said Taylor, recalling Sorensen’s words.

Meanwhile, Daryl Taylor and Parker were speaking alone outside. Taylor said when he asked whether Parker had struck Sorensen, his stepson refuted the claim.

“(Parker said) ‘You think I hit her? If anything, I was defending myself … I didn’t touch her,’” testified Daryl Taylor.

Then, Parker pulled back his sleeve to reveal red marks and scratches.

“She was scratching him and beating on him as he was driving,” Daryl Taylor said.

Parker added that Sorensen was humiliated when he confronted her about dancing with a groomsman at the wedding reception.

“When it got to the dirty dancing, I got a little upset … She stormed off the floor,” said Daryl Taylor, recalling Parker’s words.

His mother also recalled seeing no significant bruises or injuries when the woman removed her dress in front of her, she said.

Taylor said that lack of modesty was shocking but attributed it to Sorensen’s intoxication.

More shocking, she said, was Sorensen’s shifting story.

“She completely changed her story,” Debra Taylor said, adding, “I was like, ‘What is going on here … I felt something was completely wrong. I did not feel safe for (Parker).”

Jon Wilcox reports on courts for the Victoria Advocate. He may be reached or 361-580-6515.

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Jon covers crime, public safety and the courts at the Victoria Advocate. Born in Huntsville, Ala., he grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism at Texas State University.

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