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Murder defendant rejects 40-year sentence, opts to stand trial

Becky Campbell • Jan 9, 2018 at 4:48 PM

A Johnson City man awaiting trial on a first-degree murder charge for the death of a city woman more than two years ago had planned to plead guilty in the case in exchange for a 40-year sentence on Tuesday, but pulled the plug on the agreement at the last minute.

Dallas Sarden, now 25, will go to trial next week for the Aug. 18, 2015, death of Karen Parker, 49, inside her Nathaniel Drive apartment.

Sarden’s co-defendant in the case, Aaron Garland, now 24, was already tried and convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. In Tennessee, a person must serve 50 years before becoming eligible for parole on a life sentence. Life is the automatic sentence for a first-degree murder conviction.

Sarden’s attorney, Patrick Denton, told Criminal Court Judge Stacy Street “we’ve hit an impasse,” in the plea negotiations. Assistant District Attorney General Ken Baldwin said the defense approached prosecutors about the possible plea, but the state wanted assurance Sarden would follow through before they spoke to Parker’s family about it. Sarden did sign a statement stating he would not revoke the plea.

Sarden, however, didn’t keep his word and decided to not plead guilty.

Street asked Sarden if it was his decision to reject the plea, to which Sarden first said it was his family that didn’t want the plea. Street told Sarden it didn’t matter what his family wanted, but the decision has to be his. Sarden then said it was his decision to reject the plea. The plea would have given Sarden a 40-year prison sentence to be served at 100 percent. The state would also have dismissed other pending charges against Sarden, including burglary and theft.

On another issue, Street said he’d received information that someone intended to bring a weapon to the trial, but he said such behavior would not be tolerated.

“The courtroom will have increased security ... we will not have that from either side,” Street said. He did not indicate where the threat originated.

Garland and Sarden apparently blamed each other for Parker’s death and the theft of her bank debit card. In a statement to police after his arrest on an unrelated charge, Garland said he wasn’t going to refuse the food Sarden had bought for him, but claimed he had nothing to do with Parker’s death or taking the card.

He did, however, tell a police investigator that he took $45 from Parker’s wallet, money that he later used to buy the pair food at Red Lobster.

Garland’s statement also put him in Parker’s residence, taking turns with Sarden holding Parker down as the other ransacked the apartment looking for her car keys. They didn’t find the keys, but did find the cash, Parker’s bank card and a $20 Walmart gift card, a birthday gift from her sister.

Sarden remains jailed while his case is pending.

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