Convicted murderer Walter Lee Parman, who fashioned a 1972 escape from Lorton into a new life of respectability in California's Silicon Valley, was sentenced to five years in prison yesterday for his getaway.
The U.S. District Court sentencing followed emotional testimony by eight witnesses, including former coworkers and Parman's wife, Mavis, all of whom knew Parman as Mike Noble, the alias Parman used as he rose through the ranks of a computer company in Sunnyvale, Calif.
"I did plan to escape and it is a crime," Parman said before District Judge Thomas P. Jackson imposed the sentence.
"After that, I gave up Walter Parman. He was dead. I buried him."
Parman gazed intently at his wife and friends in the courtroom, but he stared at the floor as they took the witness stand to praise him as a friend and husband. He appeared to weep as his wife tearfully told the judge, "I intend to take him back because I love him and I need him. I want him to come home."
Parman also apologized to the Lorton guard who escorted him to George Washington University 12 years ago for a speaking engagement that authorities learned, too late, had been faked. Parman walked away from the GW campus and disappeared.
Parman was captured in June by U.S. marshals after a company security officer recognized him from law enforcement fliers.
Jackson ordered that the sentence, the maximum Parman could have received, run consecutively with Parman's original prison term of 20 years to life for the torture and slaying of a State Department secretary here in 1965.
A U.S. prosecutor said Parman must serve 15 years and eight months in prison before being eligible for parole. Jackson said he would recommend that Parman be transferred to a federal prison in California.
The witnesses for Parman, who flew here from California during the past two days, described the man they knew as Mike Noble as a loyal friend who eagerly helped them with problems, loaned them money and aided their careers.
"He had the reputation of being a calmer-downer," said James D. Barrington, a program manager at Shugart Corp., a subsidiary of Xerox Corp., where Parman also worked.
"I don't feel conned, or bad about it . . . . There may be a physical connection between Walter Parman and Mike Noble, but spiritually, that's not the man I've known."
Parman, wearing yellow-tinted aviator glasses and leaning an elbow on the lectern, told Jackson, "It surprises, quite frankly, the hell out of me" that friends traveled from California to speak on his behalf.
"I don't think I did anything great [during] those 12 years. I just tried to be a citizen. I throw myself on the mercy of the court."
Jackson said he was imposing the maximum sentence because Parman had shown no signs of remorse and had been "perfectly content to live a lie" in California. Parman, said the judge, was sentenced to 20 years to life for a "bizarre and shocking" murder. "Instead, Mr. Parman decided to parole himself."
Mavis Noble, who was reunited with Parman Thursday at Lorton, said in an interview that she had been unaware of her husband's criminal past. They married in 1978.
"There were times when he was very quiet. When I asked what was wrong, he just said, 'I'll be all right.' The last two months before his capture , he cried. A lot. He wouldn't tell me what was wrong," she said.
Among the spectators yesterday was Samuel E. Wallace, a retired D.C. homicide detective who investigated the 1965 strangulation murder of State Department employe Shirley Ann Cary, 32, and arrested Parman for the crime.
Cary's nude body was found in an alley in the 3800 block of Garfield Street NW. Wallace said yesterday the body bore human bite marks, numerous cigarette burns and marks about a half-inch deep where Cary had been bound.
Wallace ascribed Parman's model California life style to a simple desire not to be caught. "If I'd conned my way out of prison ," said Wallace, "I'd live so pure . . . I'd enter the priesthood to avoid being fingerprinted.
"I hate to be so vindictive," added the retired detective, "but she [Cary] had a hell of a death.