Family speaks out after police say Bradenton man with disabilities was murdered by grandmother

Family speaks out after police say Bradenton man with disabilities was murdered by grandmother

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Thursday, the family of a disabled man who police say was killed by his grandmother spoke out.

Bradenton Police said on Sunday they were called to Carlton Arms apartments where 30-year-old Joel Parks was found dead by his sister. His grandmother, 87-year-old Lillian Parks, told police she killed him because she’d be dying soon and there’d be no one around to take care of him.

“I was headed out to the front door and he goes, ‘Bonnie, I’ll see you later?' and I said, ‘Yes, Bubby, we’ll see you later,’" explained Yvonne Parks, Joel’s sister. "I said, ‘I love you’ and he said, 'I love you too.’ And that was the last time I’d see him alive.”

Yvonne Parks said she spent the day out with her boyfriend and friends. She got back to her grandmother’s apartments late Saturday night, saw Lillian Parks and Joel sleeping with the TV on and thought nothing of it.

But at noon the next day, she found it strange to find Joel still asleep.

“I said, ‘Grams, it doesn’t look like he’s breathing,’" Yvonne Parks recalled. “And that’s when she said clear as day, ‘Because he’s not.’ And I said, ‘What do you mean he’s not? Like what are you talking about?’ And she said, ‘Oh, I’m doing us both in, we’re going together.’”

Yvonne said Lillian had a plan. She had asked Yvonne to come to Bradenton to clean out the apartment and take Joel, who has autism, back to Ohio with her.

“Because she wasn’t sure if she was going to commit suicide or if she was going to go through with having the hiatal hernia surgery and go to a nursing home afterwards,” Yvonne Parks explained.

Bradenton Police said Lillian told them she intentionally overdosed Joel because she’d be dying soon and there was no one left to take care of him when she was gone. The initial reports from the police also said Lillian Parks was Joels’ caretaker because his mother was estranged.

“For her to say that he was estranged from his mother is a big lie,” said James Fretz, Joel’s step-father.

“I have never been estranged from my children, by choice," said Toshia Fretz, Joel’s mother. “I would’ve come and gotten Joel. [Lillian] had planned two weeks prior to that, that she was gonna let [Yvonne] come and take him back to Ohio!”

The family said Joel’s death was unnecessary and pre-meditated. Now a voicemail is the only thing they have left of their “Bubby," who told his mom, “I love you” over the phone.

“She took my brother for no reason,” Yvonne sobbed. "And to sit there and say that there was no option, that was the only way, that’s crap! There was plenty of people!”

Bradenton Police say Lillian Parks is still under medical care until further notice. When she is released, she’ll be charged with second degree murder.

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