In 1993, authorities in the small town of Sperry, Oklahoma (population around 1000), made one of the most chilling, gruesome, and disturbing discoveries in the history of the state. Tulsa County Sheriff Jonathan Mason, who broke down when testifying in court due to the heinous nature of the crime, says that the case still disturbs him to this day, and he frequently has nightmares and flashbacks of the scene he walked into that Tuesday, the third of August.
Police had received a phone call from an electric utility worker named Samuel Turner, who reported that while completing a meter reading at the residence of 35 year-old Elizabeth Parker, he heard what sounded like, “a dog or wolf that was howling,” but that he knew something was not right when the howling began to be interspersed with sobs, cries, and unintelligible words. While he didn’t know what was happening, he knew for sure that someone was in a lot of pain. He immediately returned to his utility truck parked down the block, radioed back to his dispatcher to call the police, and kept an eye on the house until they arrived.
Sheriff Mason, who was a deputy at the time, arrived on the scene at the same time as Deputy Jack Haslett. Together they approached the front door and knocked, but they did not receive a response. They could hear the howling and sobs that the utility worker had described, as well as what appeared to be a woman’s voice screaming. They knocked again, announced themselves, and still not receiving a response, they made entry into the home through the front door, which was unlocked. Nothing they had received in their training could ever have prepared them for the nightmare they were about to walk in on.
Both of the deputies were immediately hit by a stench neither one of them had ever encountered. They described it as a mix of human defecation, decomposing flesh, and vomit that hit them like a wall and almost stopped them in their tracks. As they moved towards the back of the house with weapons drawn, the stench grew stronger, and they noticed the sobs were now slightly muffled. Entering a back bedroom, their minds could almost not comprehend the level of horror and human suffering that they had walked in on. It’s an image that is permanently sealed in their psyches to this day.
The homeowner, Elizabeth Parker, was still in her scrubs having come off duty from the midnight shift at the hospital where she worked as a nurse in the intensive care unit. She looked no different than any other 35 year-old woman — her hair neatly kept, her nails done, and her makeup put on with precision. She had a look of dread upon her face from having been discovered, and she stood motionless and unarmed in the corner of the room awaiting the reaction of the two men in uniform that stood in the doorway of what can only be described as a chamber or horrors. The two deputies paid only enough attention to the woman to make sure she wasn’t armed, for their attention was on something far more alarming seated in a modified barber’s chair in the middle of the room.
Both men had a problem discerning whether or not what they were looking at was even human. The sobs and whimpers confirmed to their horror, that what they were looking at was indeed a person. But this was not just any person; this was Elizabeth Parker’s 13 year-old, mentally challenged son, David, who had the mentality of a 6 year-old. The woman had put her own son through such torture and torment, that he was barely recognizable as a human being, and the horrors he endured were such that no person should ever go through. The type of abuse she had inflicted upon David was not immediately known, but after being taken into custody, she came clean about everything, and once a person hears the level and extent of the tortures inflicted upon her son, one can imagine what he looked like when the police had finally come to his rescue.
After being brought down to the station, Elizabeth began to explain to law enforcement officials how she punished her son David for his disobedience and lack of love that he showed to her as a mother. Detectives stood in complete silence with mouths agape as she laid out all of the horrendous details.
No one actually knew that Elizabeth even had a son. She had moved to Sperry about 8 months prior and immediately began working the midnight shift at the hospital. As far as any of her co-workers or anyone from town knew, she was a single woman with no children who kept to herself. She was always very pleasant and friendly in conversation, and no one suspected anything out of the ordinary concerning her. Most just assumed that she was a quiet woman who worked the night shift, and therefore probably spent more time catching up on sleep rather than going out socializing. Little did they know she was running a torturous house of horrors, subjecting her son to unspeakable misery.
Elizabeth’s son David had turned 13 shortly after they had moved into town, and she felt it was time that he be held to a greater account for his actions. She purchased an old barber’s chair that she converted into a restraining chair, and bolted it to the floor in his bedroom. While she was at work for the night, and for most of the day while she slept, she would secure David into the chair to keep him from misbehaving. Things had taken a turn for the worse 10 days earlier, when David said something that sent her over the edge, and she snapped. In a fit of emotion from his isolation he told her, “You’re not my mommy!” She came unglued.
Modifying the foot straps on the barber’s chair, Elizabeth removed David’s socks, and placed his feet over the edge of the footplate so they were propped out and exposed. She then retrieved a small gas powered camp stove from the garage that she placed under his feet. Turning the small propane-powered stove on high, his feet were at just the right level to not char and burn outright. Instead, there was a “roasting” effect that was much more prolonged and agonizing. This would also help to ensure that the nerves in his feet would not be so damaged that he would no longer be able to feel pain in them once he began to recover.
While his feet began to roast, Elizabeth grabbed her car keys and made the drive back to the hospital to secure some supplies. She told the charge nurse she had forgotten some things in her locker and that’s why she was returning to work. This provided her with the cover she needed to secure IVs, saline, syringes, adrenaline, smelling salts, and antibiotics. After retrieving an ample supply of them, she hid them in a large, empty lunch box she discovered in the lost and found and returned home.
Once back home, Elizabeth returned to the back bedroom where David had lost consciousness from the pain. His feet were roasted red and covered in blisters. She turned off the propane and moved the camp stove that was covered with cooked juices from broken blisters on his feet into the corner of the room. Utilizing the smelling salts, she brought him back to consciousness and he immediately began wailing and saying, “Sorry Mommy. Sorry Mommy. I love you.” She stated that she told David it was too late for that and that he needed to be punished now.
Elizabeth retrieved a syringe and some antibiotics from the lunch box, and injected them directly into David’s feet to help stave off infection, and to help ensure there wouldn’t be permanent nerve and tissue damage that would keep him from feeling pain when his feet had healed up enough to roast them again. She didn’t give him anything for pain, knowing that even though the heat was off, he would continue to be tormented by the burning, even in his sleep.
Over the course of the next 10 days, David endured the tortures of his mother over every square inch of his body. Elizabeth Parker used a hand-held propane torch to roast his flesh from his ankles, all the way to the top of his scalp, being careful to not destroy the tissues and nerves completely to make the pain as intense and lasting as possible. After a while, the smelling salts alone were no longer effective in keeping him awake during the ordeal, and she began to have to use adrenaline injections to keep him alert and in maximum torment. Thirteen-year-old David became unrecognizable, and after 10 straight days of having various parts of his body roasted slowly, Elizabeth had decided the feet had healed enough to start the entire process over again. She again was going to work her way from the soles of his feet, to the top of his head, and had begun to do so that day when the police interrupted when they walked through her door.
David spent the next few days in the intensive care unit in the same hospital where his mother had worked. The doctors had placed him into a medically induced comma, and were also using morphine to help ease any pain he still may have possibly been able to feel in that state. They did not give David much of a chance at surviving, and on the fourth day he finally succumbed to the infections that were ravaging his body.
Elizabeth showed absolutely no remorse to police. She almost seemed proud of her actions, and stated that it was her right to punish David any way that she saw fit. She was his mother and had brought him into this world, and when he was a bad boy she could punish him accordingly. She said that she loved David and that it hurt her to have to punish him like that, but he had disobeyed her, and had gotten mouthy with her saying that she wasn’t his mother. Police ultimately believe this is what pushed her over the edge.
What makes this story all the worse, is that ultimately David received no justice. Elizabeth quickly secured a high-priced attorney using money she had inherited from her deceased parent’s estate. This lawyer in turn had so much of the evidence tossed out on various technicalities that the prosecution had no case whatsoever. In one of the greatest travesties the United States justice system has ever seen, Elizabeth Marie Parker plead guilty to aggravated assault, and received two years of probation for what amounted to the calculated, premeditated, torturous murder of her son. The terms of the probation did not require her to maintain residence in the state, and to this day she resides somewhere in sunny south Florida, where she has changed her name and assimilated into the town with no one the wiser.
I would hope at this point those reading this would be wondering how such a monstrous act could essentially go unpunished. I would hope that your heart would be sick inside your chest at the level of unjust cruelty one human being could inflict upon another, especially one’s own child, and especially one’s own child that is mentally challenged. While there are many true stories out there of parents abusing their children in various and insidious ways, this story is not one of them.
Everything you have just read, and all of the people in the story are completely fictitious in nature. You may wonder why anyone would even create such a story, and I assure you there is a good reason. This story was written as an allegory of sorts, as an example, as a representation of a “big picture” issue.
Our universe is indeed a truly wondrous place. Current size estimations of the observable universe are somewhere in the neighborhood of 93 billion light-years in diameter, and that’s only what we can observe. The amount of energy, matter, destructive forces, and creative forces contained within the universe boggles the mind. One only has to look up at the sky for a moment at night to realize just how small we really are. New frontiers in physics are leading scientists to believe that our universe may not bey the only one, but that much like there are many planets, many solar systems, and many galaxies – we are possibly contained within but one of many universes.
Inner space is as mind numbing as outer space. The world of subatomic particles is almost equally as amazing and mysterious as anything we see when we look to the stars. Scientists are continually unlocking the secrets to mysteries all of the time, as well as discovering new mysteries for every one unlocked. As they continue to make new discoveries, we continue to learn more of our origins and the processes that brought our universe, and us, into existence.
There is a substantial portion of the world’s population that believes that a supernatural entity, being, or mind of some sort brought everything into existence, and created all that we see. They say that this “being” is so powerful that it set the laws of gravity, thermodynamics, general and special relativity, as well as the rules governing quantum mechanics and other mysterious processes both discovered and yet to be discovered into motion. If such an all-powerful being actually existed, it would be unlike anything we could ever imagine or fully comprehend.
An all powerful being with the ability to create all that we know about the natural universe would be so far beyond us in cognitive ability, we would be as mentally retarded children before it. In fact, “mentally retarded” is not even an adequate enough descriptor of the vast gulf that would lie between our intellect and its own. We would seem practically catatonic compared to the creative mind of such a being, and we would be as nothing more than a drooling shell of existence in its presence.
The vast majority of people who believe in such an entity across a varied religious spectrum, believe this same being intends to subject the majority of its creation to eternal, conscious, torture through means of fire and other various forms of suffering. The largest of the three major religions, Christianity, has the best-case scenario with 2/3 of people who have ever walked the face of the earth (approximately 66 Billion) burning forever in eternal torment. As such, the fictional allegory above is an accurate representation of just what that means, and in many ways it fails to even compare to the reality of things if said “being” actually exists.
The mother in the story, Elizabeth, is a woman of average intelligence who tortures her mentally challenged son for his disobedience and failure to acknowledge her as his mother. As unjust as it seems to have a parent torturing a child that nowhere nears the cognitive function of the parent herself, it doesn’t even come remotely close to being an accurate comparison or representation in the differences of intellect and ability between an omnipotent “creator” and its creation – its children. For such a creator to inflict eternal, conscious pain and torment in a fiery hell upon what amounts to its mentally retarded kids – it would be the most vile, despicable, and evil force one could imagine. It would deserve neither praise, nor adoration, and this is why it is most certainly a complete work of fiction. Richard Dawkins summed it up well concerning a particular deity in his book The God Delusion:
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Just so no one thinks I’m only picking on Yahweh or Jesus, any being who supposedly created all that exists, who is worshiped as a god, and who inflicts eternal conscious torture on the majority of its creation for simply not believing in it, following ceremonial or dietary laws, etc. – is no different from the mother in the story above, and is therefore most likely to be a fictitious creation conjured up by the imaginations of human beings.
Some theists reply to the analogy of Elizabeth and David by saying, “You can’t judge god like that; his ways are above our ways.” This proves my point exactly! If such a being were real, its ways would indeed be above our ways, and we in no way would be able to know the mind of such a being, and could not be held responsible for not fully comprehending its desires. If it chose to punish people with eternal, conscious torture, it would be even more unjust and wicked than Elizabeth in the story because David is magnitudes closer to her in cognitive ability compared to the vast gulf that would lay between the intellect of humans and the intellect of an omnipotent creator.
Others respond to the analogy by changing the story. They say that David chose to get in the chair to be tortured. This is a common argument for religions that promote the existence of a god who tortures people forever for disobedience, or failure to accept a savior, such as in the case of Christianity (though is not limited to Christianity). The argument states that the creative being tells us the way to escape the torture, and by rejecting its offer or directions, we choose the torture ourselves. This argument to the analogy is faulty however. In the story, David disobeyed his mother and rejected her “saving” by saying, “You’re not my mother.” However, even if David willingly climbed into the chair with some sort of masochistic enthusiasm, it still does not change the fact that his torturer is a sick, demented, and twisted individual. Any creator-being that would torture someone forever without a break and without sleep – is just as sick and twisted as Elizabeth. Deflecting the attention to David, does not excuse the actions of Elizabeth, or a god who happens to be the one holding the eternal blowtorch and smelling salts.
One of the most common responses theists give to this argument however (and the most honest in my opinion) is admitting that the points made are indeed valid, and that they can offer no defense for the unjust, torturous actions of the creator being. They simply say something like, “I don’t know how to explain it, and I can’t offer a very good argument against it.” They don’t run out and immediately renounce their beliefs, but they are at least honest with themselves about the dilemma and are visibly troubled by their inability to explain it.
I’ve never seen this particular analogy, or a similar one offered anywhere else, though if anyone has a similar one that I’m unaware of I’d certainly appreciate someone directing me to it. I think the main reason why this argument is not usually put forward is that non-theists, typically not believing in a god, tend not to think of the cognitive ability of a creator compared to their own, and so the argument does not enter their minds. Theists on the other hand tend not to think of this dilemma because they give their cognitive ability far too much credit, and an omnipotent god’s cognitive ability not nearly enough. Their religious texts show human beings talking with god like he was a regular man, and they don’t think through just how powerful the mind of a being with the ability to create space, time, matter, etc. would be compared to their own.
The god of the major religions of the world seems to show very human emotions like jealousy, anger, and pettiness, which are far from what we should expect in a being that if it existed would be powerful enough to create such a massive universe like ours. It is perhaps one of the most telling signs that we were not made in the image of god, but that he was most definitely made in ours.