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$18.5M Awarded In Prison Bus Slaying

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Mike Hellgren 370x278 Mike Hellgren
WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)— A prison inmate was murdered on a bus ride in front of several corrections officers. A day after a jury awarded the victim’s family a multi-million dollar settlement, they speak exclusively with WJZ.

Mike Hellgren has new reaction to the verdict.

“This is never gonna be easy,” said Philip Parker Jr.’s mother, Melissa Rodriguez.

Rodriguez has been living a nightmare for more than six years when her son was strangled to death, a vicious murder on a Maryland state prison bus bound for Baltimore.

In a landmark decision, a jury awarded her, his father and her son’s estate $18.5 million from the state of Maryland, finding the corrections system was negligent in protecting Philip Parker.

“No remorse, no compassion. The words they used to describe my son…I’ll never get out of my head,” Rodriguez said.

The jury found four of the five correctional officers on board that bus were negligent. Attorneys for Parker’s family argued they did not properly restrain his killer—troubled convicted murderer Kevin Johns—and they waited to get medical care for Parker.

“I’ve become skeptical after about 40 years of doing this as to what it will mean. I hope it means that there will be better attention paid,” said lawyer Sam Shapiro.

“It’s hard to say congratulations,” said lawyer Michael Mastracci. “It’s never congratulations for Melissa and Philip.”

“You take a job, you follow the rules, you’re responsible for someone’s life, you should be there. You should do what you’re supposed to do,” said Philip Parker Sr.

It’s likely the state will appeal and because of limits against Maryland’s liability, it’s unlikely the family will see all of that money. But they say they’re not in it for that. They simply don’t want another family to go through what they did.

“It’s always been about my son, nothing else, for me. The guards had to look me in the eye and explain why they did nothing to help my son,” Rodriguez said. “As long as I have breath in my body, I will not stop fighting for my child.”

Parker’s killer committed suicide in prison two years ago. He had been convicted of murder three times.

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