Prosecutor denies dropping charge after fatal 911 call, doesn't know who to blame

Prosecutor denies dropping charge after fatal 911 call, doesn't know who to blame

August 16th, 2018 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

A framed photo of Diana Parkinson and her husband Mark is displayed at her home on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Rossville, Ga. Mark was shot through the window and killed by an unseen Walker County Sheriff's deputy on the night of Jan. 1 after he walked into his kitchen with a handgun in response to his barking dogs, his wife says. (Staff photo by Doug Strickland)

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Before a judge and prosecutor dismissed a case against Dorothy Gass, the lead investigator asked them to push the hearing back because she would be out of town that day.

Dorothy Marie Gass

Dorothy Marie Gass

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Greg Ramey told the Times Free Press on Thursday that his office made the request in a letter to Walker County State Court Judge Bill Mullinax and Solicitor Pat Clements, the court's prosecutor. Instead, on June 13, Mullinax signed a nolle prosse order, which is a dismissal in Georgia.

The GBI charged Gass with making a false report to 911 around 2:50 a.m. on New Year's Day. She allegedly lied to a dispatcher, telling them her daughter-in-law threatened to kill her own children and herself. When Walker County deputies arrived, one of them shot and killed a man inside his Rossville home.

On June 13, no investigator was in court to present the evidence against Gass. After his office sent a letter to Mullinax and Clements asking for a delay in the case, Ramey said, he did not learn about the dismissal until a month later.

"We do our part," he said Thursday, "and we expect the rest of our judicial system to do its part."

Last week, Mullinax told the Times Free Press he did not recall Gass' case and could not say why it was dismissed. Clements also said he did not remember the case.

But on Monday, Clements told the Walker County Messenger that he did not not ask Mullinax to drop the charge filed against Gass. He said, "I'm trying to find out who did." Mullinax did not return a call or email seeking comment Thursday.

Diana Parkinson poses for a portrait on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Rossville, Ga., seen from outside her home and framed by the broken window through which her husband, Mark, was shot and killed by a Walker County Sheriff's deputy on the night of Jan. 1. Mark walked into his kitchen with a handgun in response to his barking dogs when he was shot by an unseen deputy through the window, his wife says. (Staff photo by Doug Strickland)

Diana Parkinson poses for a portrait on Wednesday,...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Asked about that Thursday, Clements told the Times Free Press, "This is under investigation; I can't discuss it." When a reporter pointed out that the charge actually had been dismissed, he said, "It's still open. It's still open. It can be re-opened." (A solicitor can, in fact, bring a case back after issuing a nolle prosse order.)

There are two other lawyers who could have handled the Gass case, but both deny any involvement. Robert Stultz, who moonlights as an assistant solicitor in Walker County State Court, said he didn't recall the Gass case specifically. But, he added, the handwriting on the sentencing order is not his.

Chris Townley also has filled in for Clements a couple of times since last fall. But he said he did not hear the Gass case. If it came up, he would have recused himself because his law partner is representing Gass' son in his divorce, he said. (Townley will replace the retiring Clements as the full-time solicitor in September.)

Gass' son, Steven Gass, is in a custody dispute with his estranged wife, Amy Gass. Around 2:30 a.m., Amy Gass' attorneys say, Steven Gass talked to Dorothy Gass for about 15 minutes. (He testified in civil court that he does not recall what specially they talked about.)

Bullet holes remain in Diana Parkinson's kitchen window at her home on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Rossville, Ga. Her husband, Mark, was shot through the window and killed by an unseen Walker County Sheriff's deputy on the night of Jan. 1 after he walked into his kitchen with a handgun in response to his barking dogs, his wife says.

Bullet holes remain in Diana Parkinson's kitchen window...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Then, around 2:50 a.m., Dorothy Gass called 911. According to an incident report, she told a dispatcher that Amy Gass had just called her, threatening to kill her children and then herself. Walker County deputies responded to the Rossville home of Amy Gass' parents, located on Meadowview Drive.

When the deputies arrived, dogs inside the home began barking. Diana Parkinson said her husband, Mark, got out of bed, grabbed his handgun and walked into the kitchen to check on the commotion. Seconds after he flipped on a light, Deputy John Chandler shot through a window outside, killing Mark Parkinson. (Chandler later said during a Walker County internal investigation that he thought Mark Parkinson was going to shoot him or the other responding officers.)

Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin will present evidence of the shooting to a grand jury Sept. 4. Diana Parkinson learned about the dismissal in the case against Dorothy Gass last week, when she met with Franklin.

"They didn't do their job," she said Thursday, of Clements and Mullinax. "As the prosecutor, he should know the background of all the cases that are going to come before him for the day. And he should be able to fill the judge in on it. That's their job, what they're paid for: To represent the people. My husband was not properly represented."

Even though the GBI says there is no evidence that Amy Gass called her that night, Dorothy Gass maintained her innocence during an interview with the Times Free Press last week. She said she called 911 because she thought her grandchildren's lives were in danger.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.


Loading...