Occasionally I’m asked which event – which story – has been the most memorable of a journalistic career that’s spanned more than 60 years, three-quarters of them writing about California politics.
No political story, however, occupies a bigger place in my consciousness than the execution-style murders of nine people, two entire families, in the bedroom of a rural home near Lodi 50 years ago today, which I covered for the Sacramento Union.
It was the home of Walter Parkin, owner of a small food store in Victor, his wife, Joanne, and their two children, 11-year-old Lisa and Robert, 9.
The two Parkin children were lying in the master bedroom’s bed, both shot to death. Their parents and five other bodies were found in a walk-in closet, all bound and methodically murdered. They were the Parkins’ neighbors, Richard and Wanda Earl, their daughter, Debbie, who had been the Parkins’ babysitter, Debbie’s 15-year-old brother, Ricky, and her boyfriend, Mark Lang.
About the Author
Dan Walters has been a journalist for nearly 60 years, spending all but a few of those years working for California newspapers. He began his professional career in 1960, at age 16, at the Humboldt Times. CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more columns by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/commentary.
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