Netflix true-crime show revisits 1990 St. Charles County murders



ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. — The murder of two young men in St. Charles on April 29, 1990 it was devastating. Amazingly, the suspects surrendered within hours. Robert Shafer was sentenced to death for taking the lives of two innocent people.

Jerry Parker and Denny Young were part of the LGBTQ+ community. They were alone at Blanchette’s landing on North River Road. Then Shafer and another teenager approached them asking for a ride.

As the night wore on, tensions escalated, until Parker and Young were shot and killed in cold blood. On April 30, 1991 at 10 p.m., the couple turned themselves in to St. Louis County detectives. Charles.

Netflix documentary, I Am a Killer Season 1 Episode 8: Hunted features this case. The play premiered on August 3, 2018.

The day of the murder

U written acknowledgment to police in the 1990s, Shafer admitted his state of mind that day. He explains that he got high with his friend. From 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., he talked about “robbing some homosexuals and beating them up.”

Later that day, Shafer said he met his friend at home. He then went to his sister’s bedroom and retrieved a .22 caliber revolver and took five .22 caliber shells from the kitchen.

In the Netflix documentary, Shafer says, “The planning of what was supposed to be a heist had nothing to do with killing anybody. That didn’t affect it at first. It just got out of hand.”

Hunted

“It’s a hard word to use, it feels like predator and prey, but that’s what it was,” Shafer said. “We kind of stalked the victims.”

Shafer and the sixteen-year-old approached Young and Parker at Blanchette’s Landing on North River Road. They were looking for someone to rob.

Shafer said they were headed to St. Peters to meet some girls. They asked Yang if he would drive them for $5.

After driving around for a while, Young became suspicious of all directions.

Murder

“We ended up on Silver Road and I just told them to stop the car, open the door and let us out,” Shafer said.

The fight started in the car. Shafer said as he got out of the vehicle, he ended up fighting with Young.

While Shafer struggled with Young, Parker started down the road.

“I was chasing him,” Shafer said. Shafer said Parker was not running in a straight line. “The road was bumpy and he stumbled, and as he stumbled, I fired one shot.”

“I closed the distance, I moved in and fired another shot,” Shafer said. “And as I got closer, I fired another shot.”

“Mr. Young was in front of the vehicle in the ditch. And he was trying to somehow get out of the ditch. It was wet and muddy and I fired one shot,” Shafer said. “And he fell back, and I jumped into the ditch, and somehow at the same time I fired. He kind of turned around and I fired another shot. That was it.”

Confession

Hours after the murders, Shafer and his teenage accomplice turned themselves in to police. They discussed how they would tell the story to the police. They said that they were the victims and that Jerry Parker and Denny Young were the aggressors and that each of them was responsible for killing one man.

Phil Groenweghechief prosecutor and assistant district attorney of St. Charles, says he didn’t believe it Shafer’s claim of self-defense. He said the wounds did not correspond to self-defense wounds.

“Shafer seemed very manipulative to me. He seemed very cruel to me,” Groenwege said. “He’s not nearly as smart as he thought he was.”

“For him, the fact that these victims were gay, he almost considered it a mitigating factor, so that everyone would understand why he would want to kill two gay men,” Groenweghe said. “And he had real problems with it.”

Groweneghe said he didn’t know why Shafer had so much anger against themLGBTQ+ community.

Background

“My mother was raised by Catholic nuns in an orphanage; very strict. She didn’t know how to be a mother. Even though she had all these kids, she didn’t know how to be a mother,” said Juliet Shafer, Robert Shafer’s sister.

In the Netflix documentary, Juliette said their mother was reluctant. Their mother would argue with their stepfather and want him to leave the house.

Juliette said she doesn’t remember happy holidays or happy times in the house she grew up in.

Juliette recalled that her brother Robert was always happy. She said he made friends easily and knew what was always going on around town.

“But still, for some reason, he just blames himself for everything. He just couldn’t do anything right,” Juliette said. “They kept beating him, or basically just beating him.”

At 15, Juliette left their childhood home, and while she was gone, Robert briefly joined the Navy. When he got out, he didn’t want to go back to his parents.

Juliette told him she was living with her in St. to Charles. She said everything was going well, Robert was happy and even babysat for her.

But then, six to nine months into living with Juliette, a murder happened.

Three years after his arrest, Robert Shafer was found guilty of both murders. However, many still believed that he killed only one of the victims.

Childhood abuse

“I just didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. But I can almost understand, you know, the anger,” said Phillip Shafer, Robert Shafer’s brother. “I don’t condone what he did, I don’t agree with it. But I see it happening.”

Philip said that Robert asked him why his mother didn’t like them. Phillip said he would wake up to see his mother beating Robert while he was sleeping.

“Because it seemed that way, because the other kids were spared,” Phillip said. “They never had to put up with it. It was almost like we were being persecuted.”

Phillip said his mother would call them a derogatory term for LGBTQ men. Phillip said that even now it would still upset him because he was offended that his mother would call him that.

Phillip said the word was still playing around with Robert. “Nothing ever happened to me. Robert did, so it might make a difference.”

Phillip said he remembers a street where this guy would have young men from the neighborhood come over and play video games at his house.

“Today we know what that means. I mean all the young guys in the neighborhood,” Phillip said. “I think it affected Robert.”

Aubrey Martin, a childhood friend of Robert Shafer who was also a victim of abuse, said it started when they were 13 or 14 years old. They would earn money for what they did. When Martin said he would get $50 to $75, when Shafer left the van, he would have $150 to $200.

Martin said they never discussed what happened in the van. He never knew the extent of Shafer’s abuse.

“I believe that drove Robert to do violent and harmful things,” Martin said. “He never understood that shooting those two guys was to get rid of or atone for the damage done to him in his life.”

“Whether Robert saw it or not, he was targeting these two gay guys because they were bullying him,” Martin said. “That’s exactly how I feel. That’s exactly how a lot of people feel.”

The Endings

Within weeks of his death sentence, Robert Shafer began appealing. In 2004, the court ruled that he did not understand the implications of waiving his right to a lawyer. His death sentence was commuted to life without parole.

Shafer’s friend served 11 years in prison.

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