A photograph indentified as a view of Paw Paw, W.Va., in March 6 editions of Style shows Great Cacapon, W. Va., a nearby community.
Paw Paw is a tiny town that doesn't really belong to anybody - except, perhaps, the 850 people who live in it.
Nestled in the Potomac River Valley, Paw Paw is cut off - geographically; politically, socially - from the world around it. The Appalachian Mountains, which pop up all around, are a natural barricade to the outside.
Here and there, an occasionally occupied hunter's cabin appears, and the Chessie system tracks, for the trains that hustle freight down the Eastern seaboard, hug the river shoreline.
But beyond those few man-made intrusions on nature, the terrain is extremely raw.
There aren't many surprises in Paw Paw.
That's why, 15 minutes after Larry Parker gunned down West Virginia State Troopers Thomas D. Hercules and Charles H. Johnson, everybody in town knew what had happened.
A few minutes after town officials found the bullet-ridden corpses at Parker's Amelia Street home, the townspeople moved into action. They became guides, who led 100 police officers from two states through the wooded hills around Paw Paw in search of Larry Parker. They became cooks, who kept the search parties fed. They becameinnkeepers, who made sure that weary lawmen had warm beds to sleep in when they could search no more.
Two days, later when Larry Parker himself was dead, they made sure that his widow and four stepchildren had plenty to eat and about $300 in cash to carry them through the rough days ahead.
Parker had to pay for what he did, but after all, Larry parker was one of them. And in places like Paw Paw, people take care of their own.
On Wednesday, Jan. 12, the day of the shooting, Parker had gone into his bedroom, grabbed his hunting rifle and sneaked up behind trooper Johnson, who was waiting in Parker's kitchen. Johnson and Hercules were going to take Parker on the long trip to the county seat in Berkeley one Springs, an hour away. Parker was going to jail. Parker shot Johnson in the back. The bullet when through the trooper's shoulder blade, pierced his lung, and exited through the front of his throat.
Parker then ran outside and shot into the squad car where Hercules was waiting. The two exchanged fire for about 10 minutes. When it was all over, Hercules had been shot in the arm, in the hip, in the armpit and in the head. Once he was dead, Parker, uninjured jumped into the squad car and took off.
He got less than half a mile. During the shootout the front left tire of the police car had been flattened. Parker had to abandon the car and flee into the woods on foot.
Police officials from Maryland and West Virginia used roadblocks, canine teams, helicopter surveillance, foot patrols and a five-man sniper team to keep Parker contained in those woods.
Parker, 29, was an experienced woodsman who had lived in the area all his life. He knew where he was going and what he was doing. The police didn't.
But that Friday morning, fresh snowfall made parker easier to track. Search parties followed his footprints to a waterfall known locally as Big Niagara at the foot of Shanty Hollow. As six officers stood atop the frozen waterfall, Parker was hiding in a cave underneath it.
At 2:26 that afternoon, as police closed in, they heard a shot. Then they smelled gunpowder. Parker had turned his high-powered hunting rifle on himself and shot once, through the heart. "After he got out (of jail) the last time," his father would remember later, "he swore he'd never go back alive." This time, at least, Larry Parker was true to his word.
Larry parker's life began in the early evening of June 22, 1947, in Spring Gap, W. Va. When his mother, Opal Pearl, told her husband, Harry, it was time, he drove into nearby Paw Paw to fetch the doctor. Their fourth child was born at home.
Brothers Jack, Jerry and Eddie were already around for Larry to play with. Sandy, Ellen, Danny and Charlie came along later.
When Larry was still a youngster his family moved a few miles away to Old Town, on the Maryland side of the Potomac River. He attended local schools for a while but he never went to high school. "He didn't want to go," his father said. "I only got two children who ever did finish school."
Larry's family and friends describe him as a happy, talkative, easygoing man who'd give you the shirt off his back. He loved kids, they say, and would get down on the floor with them and roll around, laughing and giggling. He liked to "cut up," his father remembered.
But he seemed to fall into trouble with law all the time, Harry parker recalled. "He was a daredevil type. He'd do anything."
In 1965, when Larry was 18, he and his best friend, Tommy Barnes, took off to have some fun in Green Springs, W. Va., in a 1959 Dodge. Larry was driving, at a speed considerably higher than the posted limit, his father said.
The car hit a telephone poll, and both boys were thrown from the car, according to Harry Parker. Tommy Barnes was killed. Larry suffered a head injury that left a hole in the back of his skull.
After Larry returned home from the hospital, his father recalls, "Tommy's other friends would call the house and say they were waiting to get him. They called him "murderer" all the time . . . . We really had a time of it. It lasted for months."
Parker's parents noticed a marked change in their son after the accident. He was still good-natured, they say, but every now and again, he'd "take a spell" and go off into the woods alone, for long periods of time.
"He'd just go out wandering," Harry parker said. "We'd never know where he was or when he was coming back. He was pretty well in the woods all the time. I guess that's really when he became a woodsman."
That's also when he became interested in guns, according to his family. "He took to hunting and became an expert marksman," his father said. "He had lots of guns - 22s, rifles, shotguns, that sort of thing."
Larry also became interested in the Army around that time, but the Army wasn't interested in him.
"He was a 'mental reject,'" his father, a disabled veteran himself, remembered. "The Army said he was too slow, that he wouldn't be no good in battle.
"But the other night he proved he was pretty quick, I think," Harry parker said. "The way he led all those policemen around of themselves. Larry was smart as a whip."
What still puzzles most law officers and others connected with the manhunt was why Larry Parker stayed in the immediate area after he killed Hercules and Johnson. With a full hour to escape before lawmen could respond to the scene, Parker could easily have fled the area and perhaps remained at large indefinitely.
"My personal feelings is that the man couldn't have survived outside the area," one Maryland police officer speculates. "He didn't know anything and those hills. He was a woodsman, and that was his life. He didn't know anything else."
"I guess when you shoot a policeman, you must feel your own doom," Parker's father said. "He must have thought that soonr or later they'd get him. So he didn't even try to escape. I think he wanted to stay at home, right up to the end."
Even so, Parker apparently didn't want the end to come too quickly. When Dr. Benedict Skitarelic, the Allegany County, Md., coroner, examined parker's corpse in the cave underneath the waterfall, he found that Parker had been wearing five full layers of clothing, to protect himself from the subzero temperatures.
Outside the five layers of clothing, parker wore a white union suit, to camouflauge himself in the snow as police helicopters flew overhead.
In the pockets of the clothing, parker had been carrying 41 cartridges for his 7-millimeter hunting rifle, to protect himself from his pursuers.
Larry Parker waas arrested a number of times by police officers on both sides of the Potomac, often suspected of burglary according to one Maryland state police sergeant.
Parker apparently served only two jail sentences of any real length. About seven years ago, his father recalled, he spent a year in a Maryland correctional institution near Hagerstown on a larceny charge. Last fall, he spent 100 days in the Morgan County, W Va., jail in Berkeley Springs for possession of illegal deer meat.
Parker's jailers say he was alomost a model prisoner. He kept quiet, and he kept to himself. He didn't mingle with the rest of the prison population.
"He could do the crime, but he couldn't do the time," one Maryland police officer familiar with Parker says. "There's a lot like that, Big, tough guys, but when you put them behind bars, they go to pieces."
Last fall, law officers in West Virginia obtained a warrant and searched Parker's home, looking for stolens goods. After identifying furniture, appliances and other articles found inside, Maryland police officers say they were able to close at least six burglary cases that had occured when within the previous 18 months.
Six fugitive warrants for Parker's arrest were issued by Allegany County, Md., officials and forwarded to the Berkeley Springs detachment of the West Virginia State Police. Larry Parker was wanted again.
The vow about not returning to custody now seems prophetic. "If it was anybody but a policeman, he'd never hurt 'em," his father says. "But there was three or four officers he'd have dropped if he'd got 'em in his sights."
Curiously, as his feeling toward the law grew more bitter, Parker's attitude toward home, family and things spiritual seemed to become warmer.
"He told me he was 'saved' while he was in jail," Parker's widow, Nellie, says. "He quit drinking, he stayed home every night, and we even started going to church again."
One of Parker's friends felt Parker knew his days were numbered, so he "wanted to do right by his family and friends during the time he had left."
So Parker lived "right" until the inevitable day when the police came around to pick him up again.
With warrants pending against him in two states, it was only a matter of time.
At about 2 o'clock on the afternoon of Jan. 12, troopers Hercule, 41, and Johnson, 30, left the state police detachment in Berkeley Springs for the hour-long drive over Sidling Hill Mountain and into Paw Paw.
A burglary had been reported the night before. They were going out to investigate.
As they drove into Paw Paw, they saw Parker, traveling on foot. Since they were holding the Maryland fugitive warrants for his arrest back at headquarters, they picked him up.
After Hercules and Johnson put Parker in the back seat of their cruiser, he asked if the troopers would take him home, so he could say goodbye to his wife and arrange for his bond.
Hercules and Johnson could have said no. They could have handcuffed him, hauled him up before a local magistrate for arraignment, put him in jail and then let him telephone his wife.
But in small towns, criminals aren't just people who break the law. They're people who have families, and have to provide for the needs of those families. They're people who have friends and neighbors who sometimes depend on them.
So police officers who work small towns don't always feel it's fair to do thing strickly by the book. When Larry Parker asked for a favor, Hercules and Johnson showed some compassion for their prisoner, and agreed to take him home.
"Larry wasn't no angel, but he wasn't what people have been making him out to be, either," parker's brother-in-law, Wayne Brown, says. "There was a few things that Larry did that was ornery, but who don't do things that's ornery?
"We loved Larry the way he was," Brown says. "He helped me out with money and fed me a lot of times, and I don't care who knows it."
Parker's family paints him as sort of a modern day Robin Hood who had a few undeniable quirks. They remember him as a plain-talking, fun-loving man who was presecuted by the police for his defiant attitude.
"Some of the stuff of Larry's record is true - but not all of it," Brown says. "Whenever something happened around here, Larry got blamed for it. The police was always following him and accusin' him of things he never done."
Parker's sister Sandy recalls that a few years back, Larry would occasionally steal milk from a local dairy "and take it to families who needed it. He'd got out into the woods and shoot a deer, skin it, and take it to somenbody who didn't have nothin' to eat. Sometimes the police would pick Larry up and question him about something he didn't do. He ended up takin' the rap for somebody else - he had to, because he was Larry. He wouldnt' tell who did and he usually knew. He was loyal to his friends."
Relatives remember a game Parker and his wife used to play. By arranging exactly 14 pennies on a flat surface, Parker could spell out "I love you Nellie."
When police found Parker's corpse in the cave at the foot of Shanty Hollow, they saw that he had scratched "I Love you, Nellie," in four different places on the wall of the cave.
They also found a stack of pennies. Family members say that the pennies are further proof that in his final moments. Parker was obsessed with letting Nellie know how he really felt.
"Larry wasn't a bad boy and he wasn't a bad man," Harry Parker says of his son. "That's just the way he was painted because he was kind of wild and reckless.
"But he wasn't a drunk or anything like that. It's like mywife says. He was just a boy in a man's body."