$250,000 bond forfeited when Douglas man skipped last day of trial
Parra found guiltyin absentiabut can’t be sentenced
BISBEE – Two years ago Francisco Ruben “Frank” Parra left the Cochise County Superior Court in Bisbee with an admonishment from judge Wallace Hoggatt to return the next day for day six of Parra’s trial on charges connected to a 2013 kidnapping and ransom plot. But the following morning, December 11, 2014, Parra was nowhere to be found.
Today he remains a wanted fugitive and the subject of a nationwide arrest warrant.
Parra is also still on the radar of Linda Holifield, the local bail bond agent who wrote the $250,000 deal that allowed Parra to be free on bail. New Century Bail Bonds of Sierra Vista which posted the bond was required to pay $250,000 to Cochise County when judge Hoggatt ordered the bail forfeited after Parra skipped town. According to Holifield, who owns AAA Southern Arizona Bonding Service, she “will never be done with this case” until Parra is in custody.
In a recent interview, Holifield said she is aware of one confirmed sighting of Parra in Tucson in February 2015, and at least two other “missed opportunities.” One of those opportunities involved a fugitive recovery agent (aka bounty hunter) who was within minutes of catching up with Parra. Holifield believes Parra has avoided arrest for two years because of regular help from family and friends in Tucson, Douglas, and Mexico.
At the time Parra absconded, he was on trial for seven charges including kidnapping, extortion, and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon stemming from a March 6, 2013 incident during which two masked men tried to kidnap local businessman Diego Morales while he was meeting with Parra. Authorities allege Parra was in on the scheme with the masked men, who were later identified as Gabriel Owen and Erick Parra (Francisco’s brother).
When the three men were arrested, Carol Capas of the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office reported that the plan was to demand a million dollar ransom from Morales’ family. However, the plan fell apart when Morales escaped. Capas said Parra then contacted the Douglas Police Department “to make it appear as if he were also a victim” in the attack. Parra’s report was handed off to the sheriff’s office because the incident occurred at a residence outside the Douglas city limits.
Defendant released on reduced bail, 20 months before trial
Parra’s first court appearance was in front of judge Alma Vildosola of the Douglas Justice Court on March 7, 2013. Vildosola ordered Parra held in jail in lieu of $500,000 bail. The next month Parra filed a motion to reduce bail and on April 26, 2013 judge Hoggatt lowered the amount to $250,000. Parra was released from the Cochise County jail after New Century posted an appearance bond, secured in part by property owned by the Parra family.
As a condition of his release, Parra promised to remain law-abiding and attend all court proceedings, including his trial. Court records indicate Parra was advised that any failure to appear for any court proceedings would be considered a “voluntary” absence and the proceedings “could go forward and be completed in his absence.”
In May 2014, co-defendants Owen and Erick Parra agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit kidnapping. They were both sentenced by judge Hoggatt to ten years in prison, the maximum sentence for that charge. However, Francisco Parra declined a plea agreement and went to trial on his charges.
The trial started December 2, 2014 and included testimony from the victim and co-defendant Owen. On December 10, defense attorney Wendell Hughes notified Hoggatt that the defense was resting its case without Parra testifying. The jury was excused for the rest of the day, and at 3:00pm Hoggatt excused Parra as well, reminding him to return at 9:00am the next day.
But Parra did not show up. Hoggatt ruled the trial would continue despite the
defendant’s absence and later that day the jury convicted Parra of all seven counts.
Awarrant was issued for Parra’s arrestand requires any agency that takes him into custody to notify the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office.
Sentencing on hold while search continues
Normally the next step in Parra’s case would have been for the jurors to decide if the charges involved aggravating factors that the judge could consider during sentencing. Hoggatt postponed the aggravation phase until October 2015 and had a new 12 person jury empaneled to hear testimony. That jury returned verdicts finding five aggravating factors.
Arizona court rules do not allow for a defendant to be sentenced in absentia, so Hoggatt cannot hold a sentencing hearing until Parra is taken into custody. Court records show Parra is facing more than 100 years in prison if he is sentenced to consecutive (back to back) terms for each charge. He will likely face an additional charge of “failure to appear in the first degree” for skipping out mid-trial.
Parra’s action also violated provisions of his bail agreement, which led to a March 2015 order by judge Hoggatt for the permanent forfeiture of the $250,000. Holifield says she required Parra to check-in every day and that he did so on the evening of December 10, even sitting in her living room. She was “stunned” that he failed to appear in court after being out on bail for almost 20 months.
Holifield explained that Parra’s decision to run was “especially hurtful” because she knew Parra and his family for several years. She said the legal expenses and questions about her decisions have been “devastating” to her own business, which is why she hopes criminal charges are brought against those who harbor or aid Parra.
Even if Parra is captured, New Century will not get back the $250,000 it forfeited. The company, which is now out of business,paid off the debtover the course of a year.
For Holifield, who still writes bonds for Cochise County defendants through her company AAA Southern, seeing Parra arrested “will always be a priority.”
Anyone with information about Parra’s whereabouts can call the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office at 520-432-9500. Tips can also be directed to Linda Holifield of AAA Southern Arizona Bonding at 520-432-7364
Contact reporter Terri Jo Neff at 520-508-3660 and firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s Note: The court file indicates that theCounty Attorney’s Office and representatives of New Century Bail Bonds agreedto make a $100,000 payment in April 2015 and payments of $15,000 per month thereafter until paid in full. A February 2016 court filing indicated the bond forfeiture debt had been satisfied.