Life without parole

Published 8:43 pm Thursday, November 24, 2005

By By NORMA LERNER / Edwardsburg Argus
CASSOPOLIS - A 27-year-old Edwardsburg man will spend the rest of his life behind prison bars with no possibility of parole in the 2004 murder of his two-year-old son, Austin Singleton.
Donald Parks was sentenced Friday morning in Judge Michael Dodge's Circuit Court on a conviction of first-degree felony murder.
The mother of Austin, Angela Singleton of South Bend, was present in court, but decided not to address it. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Jason Ronning, who tried Parks' case, said Austin was only two years old. He said Parks willfully and wantonly beat the child on the head. “The poor child's life was tragically cut short at a young age. It is a most serious offense in the state of Michigan. It's life with no possibility of parole,” he said.
Defense lawyer James Miller said nothing will change the tragedy that has occurred. He said Parks is “remorseful.”
Before sentencing Parks said, “Nothing I can say will change anything in my heart. I am so sorry … sorry … sorry … for what happened. I cannot put into words my remorse. Nothing I can do but pay for it.”
In the trial when Parks was found guilty Oct. 6, he had been watching the child since Oct. 31 for a few days at an apartment with his girlfriend on Hilton Street in Cassopolis. This was upon an agreement with the child's mother on Oct. 31 for Austin to stay for a while. It was on Nov. 4 when Austin had been severely shaken and hit on the side and back of his head before he died of head trauma the next day in a Kalamazoo hospital. Parks initially said Austin had fallen off some play equipment at a playground and hit his head.
Dodge told Parks that Austin's mother entrusted her son's care to him. He said he was responsible for his injuries. For his misbehavior, Parks hit him in the head and face. He had bite marks on his arms, bruises on his body and blood in his ears. Dodge said he died of cranial cerebral trauma to the head.
Dodge vacated first-degree child abuse and second-degree felony murder convictions so it wouldn't violate the constitution against double jeopardy.