Murder victim gave a woman a ride shortly before his death, family says
Ronald Parker loved cancer sticks.
He smoked for years. Newports were his favorite. Multiple hospital visits, near-fatal health complications and constant harassment from his wife to quit was not enough to convince him to kick the habit.
“That was his downfall, his smoking. He loved them Newports,” said his wife, 42-year-old Adrian Clayborn-Parker, who was married to the Trenton man for 10 years and was with him for more than two decades. “If you had them, he’d smoke along with you.”
Parker’s affinity for cigarettes led him to develop emphysema, a lung disease that made it hard for him to breath and nearly cost him his life, having to be placed on a ventilator a handful of times over the last two years, his wife said.
But in the end, it wasn’t what killed him.
The 5-foot-4-inch tall, 270-pound 45-year-old father of five — and grandfather of six with one on the way — was gunned down in the streets of South Trenton while behind the wheel of an Acura with Pennsylvania plates, in what has become the resounding, all-too-common refrain of gun violence plaguing the capital city.
Police are investigating Parker’s murder, the 22nd homicide of the year (including two vehicular homicides), but have not arrested anybody or identified suspects in the murder, which happened early Sunday morning.
Investigators found Parker behind the wheel of the crashed car, after it collided with a fence near the intersection of Asbury and Steamboat streets. He was pronounced dead at 4:05 a.m., suffering from multiple gunshot wounds including one to the chest.
Parker worked at UPS and attended Trenton Central High School, according to his Facebook page.
Shannon Jaqua Parker, Parker’s son, took to Facebook to lament his father’s death.
“Man, I’m done,” he wrote.
In an almost foreboding post made more than a month before his dad was gunned down, Shannon Parker noted the gun violence that has overtaken the capital city.
“Man, n***as always shootin’,” he said. “Where the hands at now days? S*** is crazy.”
Police have not released a motive in the slaying, but Parker’s wife has her suspicions. She pointed to a phone call her husband received from a woman in the hours before he was gunned down.
Clayborn-Parker spoke to The Trentonian as she prepared to board a bus to New Jersey from Atlanta, where she and the family moved in August. Parker had remained in Trenton to take care of his ailing father and planned to rejoin the family later.
Clayborn-Parker said she spoke to a Trenton woman who admitted being the last person to contact Parker before his death. But the woman insisted she had nothing to do with his murder, nor was aware of a plot to have him killed.
“I don’t believe it,” said Clayborn-Parker, adding she plans to tell investigators about the call.
Parker grew up on Columbia Avenue at the since-razed Miller Homes, a notorious crime-ridden housing complex described in one news story as the “poster child for public housing failure.”
There, Parker garnered a reputation as a young, rambunctious rough-houser nicknamed “Rough Ron” who liked to run with the older kids. As a young man, his wife said, “he had all the women chasing him.” Somehow, she won his heart.
“When he was locked up with my brother, he told him he was going to snatch up his sister,” Clayborn-Parker said. “He told him, ‘You’re crazy.’”
Parker’s words turned prophetic when the two ended up together and stayed committed to each other despite “up and downs” throughout 23 years.
City activist Darren “Freedom” Green said he grew up in the same neighborhood with Parker. Over the years, the two lost contact but the community activist, who has been critical of the police department’s inability to stymie violence in the capital city, was saddened to learn of Parker’s death.
“He was a real laid back guy, so I was shocked to hear about this,” Green said.
Clayborn-Parker described her husband as a friendly chatterbox who was well-known in Trenton.
“He was friendly, too friendly with people,” she said.
She said her husband was quick to help people, acting as an unofficial taxi service to friends and acquaintances.
Painting her husband’s generous spirit, Clayborn-Parker told the story of when she and her husband spotted a homeless city man on West State Street with beat-up shoes sitting on the sidewalk. It was getting cold outside, and the ripped-up soles of the shoes were missing.
Parker told his wife to roll down the window and ask the man what size shoe he wore. Parker went to the store, bought a pair of shoes and went back to give them to the homeless man.
“The guy was ecstatic,” Clayborn-Parker said. “He was a good guy in his own way.”
Parker had his problems, too.
His wife said he was arrested multiple times and was convicted of selling drugs. She said he spent roughly a decade behind bars, on a drug conviction in Pennsylvania and for violating parole after he was released.
Clayborn-Parker said, as far as she knew, her husband had kicked the drug-dealing lifestyle and embraced being a father to his five kids, ranging in age from 10 to 28.
She doesn’t believe drugs had anything to do with his death, pointing back to the phone call he received from the woman.
Parker had apparently agreed to give her a ride and left his city home around 3 a.m., his wife said. Clayborn-Parker said her husband spoke to their daughter before leaving the house, asking her if she needed him to take out any trash from her room.
She asked him to turn the heat down before he left, Clayborn-Parker said her daughter told her.
Clayborn-Parker said she spoke to her husband for the last time the day before he was killed.
Her father, 81-year-old William Clayborn died in his sleep Dec. 13. The family planned to travel from Atlanta to pick up Parker in Trenton to go to her father’s funeral; they were going to celebrate Christmas in New Jersey.
But Parker never made it to the funeral. And now his wife must bury two loved ones.
“I got faith that God is going to break this case,” Clayborn-Parker said. “I hope whoever killed my husband is brought to justice fast. He didn’t deserve it. All I can do is pray.”