INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – The mother of a high school senior arrested for allegedly trying to hire hit men to kill her and her husband said through tears Wednesday that her son had always been a "very good child."
Jacob A. Jett, 18, allegedly gave $260 and three handguns to two would-be hit men to kill his parents, Richard R. Parnell, 53, and Robyn J. Parnell, 48, according to the prosecutor's probable cause statement.
Jett and 17-year-old Joseph R. Garcia, who is accused of introducing Jett to the would-be hit men, were charged Tuesday with second-degree attempted murder and armed criminal action. They each face the possibility of life in prison if convicted.
"It came out of nowhere," Robyn Parnell said tearfully in a brief telephone conversation. "He was a very good child. He's never done anything like this before."
Mrs. Parnell said her son was adopted as an infant and that he was their only child. She said she did not want to comment at length about the case, but said she had not slept since the arrests and that her husband was also "not doing so good."
Jett and Garcia were being held Wednesday in the Jackson County detention center on $250,000 cash bonds. It was unclear if either Jett or Garcia had lawyers. Mrs. Parnell would not comment about plans for a lawyer, and a woman who answered the phone at the Garcia home hung up when asked about the case.
At an arraignment for Jett and Garcia on Wednesday afternoon, a judge entered not guilty pleas on their behalf. Their next court appearance is scheduled for March 31.
Jackson County prosecutor Jim Kanatzar said Jett wanted his parents killed because he thought they were too strict and because he wanted to inherit their money.
"He was motivated by greed to obtain their money," Kanatzar said. "We also have some information that he was having some personal problems with his parents. Nothing that is too unusual. But he was upset with limitations that his parents were putting on him.
"He thought they were too strict."
Kanatzar did not elaborate on what those restrictions were.
Jett and Garcia both attended Truman High School, where Garcia was a junior. Jett allegedly contacted Garcia to find out if he knew anyone who "may have been willing to facilitate a murder-for-hire," the prosecutor said.
Garcia introduced Jett to the two would-be hit men at a Kansas City home in January. One of the men, who after that meeting was picked up for a parole violation, then told police about the alleged scheme on Feb. 15. Police on Monday contacted the second would-be hit man, who corroborated the story. Neither of the men hired to kill the Parnells were charged, Kanatzar said.
"I don't think (the would-be hit men) ever really intended on going through with it," Kanatzar said. "I think they saw it as an easy way to get $260."
He said Jett also offered the men three handguns from Mr. Parnell's collection, one of his parent's ATM cards and a PIN number, as well as the security code for the family's home.
The attempted second-degree murder charge carries a prison sentence of 5 to 15 years, and the armed criminal action carries a sentence of 3 years up to life in prison, Kanatzar said.
While he has had several murder-for-hire cases, Kanatzar said none has involved a teenager and his parents.
"It's very rare that we're dealing with defendants of this age," Kanatzar said. "Often times it's a spouse, or a boyfriend. It's rare that someone's trying to have their parents killed, especially somebody of this age group."