West Memphis leaders meet to discuss convicted murderer’s release

Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 6:01 PM CDT

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (WMC) - West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon met with West Memphis Police Department heads to discuss last week’s news of a convicted murderer being released from prison.

“We should never be in this situation,” McClendon said.

Demarcus Parker was convicted in September 2020 for the 2018 death of Oliver Johnson, a Forrest City police officer who was off-duty at the time of his death.

Officer Oliver Johnson (Source: Family)
Officer Oliver Johnson (Source: Family)

Because he had been held in custody for more than 12 months prior to his trial, Parker filed an appeal to have his sentence overturned because he was not given a speedy trial.

The Arkansas Supreme Court sided with his case.

Mayor McClendon sat down with Action News 5 Monday afternoon, telling us he is related to the widow of Officer Johnson.

“They’re definitely frustrated, and they’re hurt like anyone would be,” McClendon said. “The Johnson family, they are not feeling they got justice.”

Before speaking with WMPD, McClendon spoke with newly-elected Prosecuting Attorney Sonia Fonticiella, and the mayor said he was encouraged by his discussion with her on the Parker release.

“She wants what I want, and that’s a safer West Memphis,” said McClendon. “She’s going to do everything she can to make sure that our prosecutors in the future can prosecute in a timely manner.”

It could also mean more prosecutors and resources coming to Eastern Arkansas to ensure speedy trials are given.

“We definitely have to work with our prosecutors to make sure that (felons) pay the ultimate penalty and make sure that we keep the people here safe,” said Mayor McClendon.

Releases on a technicality like failure to give a speedy trial have happened before, according to McClendon, but those releases came before Fonticiella came into her role as prosecuting attorney.

McClendon says he hopes he along with law enforcement can make the Parker release an outlier.

He said he’s unsure if Parker will return to West Memphis once released, but if he does, the hope is he doesn’t commit the acts he was convicted of in 2020.

There won’t be a technicality to get him released a second time.

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