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Lawyer Says Minister Charged In Four Contract Kilings Was ‘Crazy’

October 8, 1988 GMT

BALTIMORE (AP) _ A minister charged with masterminding four slayings to collect the victims’ life insurance is ″crazy″ and will enter an insanity plea in the bizarre series of shootings and a throat slashing, her attorney said.

The indictment against Geraldine Parrish, 52, on four counts of first- degree murder and three of attempted murder was announced Thursday. Also indicted were her brother, Ronald Church Brown, 33; Lionel Robinson, 20; and Edwin Bernardo Gordon, 23, the alleged hit man in three of the four deaths prosecutors claim Ms. Parrish ordered.

″All of them are contract murders for insurance,″ prosecutor Mark P. Cohen said.

William B. Purpura, Ms. Parrish’s court-appointed attorney, said Friday he will ask for a competency hearing next week and enter pleas of innocent and ″not criminally responsible″ on her behalf because she is too mentally impaired to stand trial.

If found not criminally responsible for the crimes, Ms. Parrish could be committed to a mental hospital rather than sentenced.

″Obviously, she’s a crazy person,″ Purpura said. ″...I believe it (the evidence) is all going to show there was some bizarre behavior and a lack of ability to conform her behavior to the norm.″

Ms. Parrish, who is in custody along with the three others charged in the case, is ″unable to assist counsel or understand the proceedings against her,″ Purpura said.

Raised in rural North Carolina, Ms. Parrish is illiterate but acts as a minister in Baltimore, Purpura said. He did not know if she was ordained in any organized faith.

Prosecutors allege Ms. Parrish collected at least $15,000 from insurance policies on the lives of slain victims.

Ms. Parrish collected at least $5,000 as beneficiary of a policy on Frank Ross, 46, and paid Gordon between $1,500 and $3,000 for the killing, prosecutors said. Ross was shot Nov. 12, 1985.

Helen Wright, a 65-year-old domestic worker who boarded with Ms. Parrish, was killed by a gunshot March 6, 1987, a month after she had survived another gunshot.

Police said Ms. Parrish received at least $10,000 in insurance benefits, plus Social Security checks intended for Ms. Wright. Gordon received $2,000 for his work in Ms. Wright’s death, police said.

Six months later, Gordon and Ms. Parrish tried to kill her niece, Dolly Brown, 29, for whom Ms. Parrish was the beneficiary of a $10,000 insurance policy, prosecutors said.

Ms. Brown was wounded by a gunshot Sept. 19, 1987, as she and her boyfriend, Ronald Mitchener, 37, sat at their kitchen table. Mitchener died of a gunshot wound.

Two more attempts on Ms. Brown’s life followed. An assailant slit her throat on March 6, 1988, and on May 19, 1988, she was shot three times in the head, but survived the attacks.

Robinson and Brown were indicted for allegedly taking part in the Oct. 6, 1986, shooting death of Albert Robinson, which prosecutors say also was ordered by Ms. Parrish. Cohen did not say which of the men is accused of shooting Albert Robinson, who is not related to Lionel Robinson.

In addition to being charged with three of the killings allegedly orchestrated by Ms. Parrish, Gordon was indicted for the Oct. 14, 1987, death of Henry Barnes, 39. Barnes’ wife, Bernadette, 42, was indicted in June for her husband’s death. She is charged with soliciting Gordon’s assistance in killing her husband, Cohen said.