UPDATE: Two more charged in case of body found in burning car

UPDATE POSTED 5:39 P.M. JUNE 14, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Two more people have been charged in connection with a Lexington murder earlier this year.

According to the Herald-Leader newspaper, Martae Shanks and Autumn Owens were charged with arson, abusing a corpse and criminal mischief.

Martae Shanks

Autumn Owens

The newspaper said both lived in the same apartment building as the victim, 38-year-old Lazarus Parker.

Another suspect in the case, Cecil Russell, was previously charged with Parker’s murder.

The Herald-Leader said a grand jury alleges that Shanks and Owens either intentionally started the fire or tried to help with the fire and helped take Parker’s body to Bourbon County to burn.


LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – During a hearing Tuesday, a defense attorney suggested someone else and not his client was responsible for killing a Lexington man found dead in the trunk of a car burning in Bourbon County.

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, testimony in Fayette County District Court suggested 36-year-old Cecil T. Russell was at a home on Dakota Street and argued with 38-year-old Lazarus Parker the night Parker was killed. Police also have video of Russell driving the car in which Parker’s body was found on Feb. 9, according to testimony reported by the newspaper.

Russell is charged with murder and evidence tampering in connection with Parker’s death.

During Tuesday’s hearing, police also testified they arrested several people during a March 3 drug raid on the house where Parker is believed to have been killed but none of those people have been charged in connection with the homicide, the newspaper reported.

On Feb. 9, Bourbon County firefighters found Parker’s body in the trunk of a four-door sedan that was on fire in a barn. He’d apparently been shot before being put in the trunk and the car set on fire.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Kentucky State Police detective Jeff Gaby said troopers charged Russell based on his own statements about being at the house and at the barn where the car was discovered.

While Russell admitted some involvement in the case, he never admitted killing Parker, Gaby said during the hearing, according to the Herald-Leader.

During questioning at Tuesday’s hearing, Russell’s attorney, Daniel Whitley, suggested his client placed the blame on two other people who were at the home and the barn, the newspaper reported.

One of those was a woman shown on a surveillance camera buying gasoline. Gaby said the woman admitted to taking the gas back to the Dakota Street house before they went to the barn. According to the newspaper report, Gaby said investigators still are looking at their potential roles and waiting on ballistic tests before further discussions with prosecutors.

Russell was arrested on March 10.

The evidence tampering charge could have to be moved from Fayette County, where the shooting allegedly occurred, because prosecutors said it was based on the burning of the body but that happened in Bourbon County, attorneys said.

According to the Herald-Leader,  Judge Lindsay H. Thurston ruled enough probably cause existed to send the case to the Fayette County Grand Jury which will decide on possible indictments. The judge did lower Russell’s bond from $1 million to $300,000 cash.

UPDATE POSTED 2:15 P.M. MARCH 15, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – A 36-year-old Lexington man has been charged with murder in connection with the death last month of another Lexington man.

According to Kentucky State Police, Cecil Russell, of 1860 Arundel Drive in Lexington, is charged with murder and evidence tampering in connection with the death of 38-year-old Lazarus Parker whose body was found Feb. 9 in the trunk of a burning car in Bourbon County.

He’d been shot before being put in the trunk and the car set on fire, according to the Bourbon County coroner.

According to Fayette County Detention Center records, Russell is being held on $1 million bond. According to the arrest citation, he was picked up at 284 Pleasant Point Drive in Lexington.

UPDATE POSTED 5:40 P.M. FEB. 26, 2021

PARIS, Ky. (WTVQ) The Kentucky State Police, Post 6, in collaboration with the State Examiners Office and Bourbon County Coroner, continue to investigate the Feb. 9 death of 38-year-old Lazarus Romell Parker, of Lexington, whose body was found in the trunk of a burning car in a barn just off the road on a farm in Bourbon County.

He’d been shot.

In a statement released Friday, the KSP said, “Detectives are actively investigating the incident to further determine the circumstances surrounding his death. More information may be available for release as the investigation continues.”

UPDATE POSTED 1 P.M. FEB. 24, 2021

PARIS, Ky. (WTVQ) – A 38-year-old Lexington man has been identified as the person found in a burning car two weeks ago.

Bourbon County Coroner DeeGee Ison-Roe identified the body as that of Lazarus Romell Parker. Dental records were used to confirm the identity, she said.

Parker was shot to death before the car was set on fire. He was found in the trunk.

No funeral arrangements have been set.


PARIS, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Kentucky State Police, Post 6 in Dry Ridge, was contacted by Bourbon County Dispatch just after 7 A.M. Tuesday requesting investigative assistance following a vehicle fire.

The initial investigation indicates the Bourbon County Fire Department responded to 505 Hutchinson Road around 5:30 A.M. after a passerby observed flames and smoke coming from a barn near the roadway.

According to the KSP, firefighters discovered a 4-door passenger car fully engulfed in flames, parked inside of the barn. After subduing the fire, firefighters located what appeared to be human remains and contacted Kentucky State Police.

The Bourbon County Coroner responded to the scene and removed the human remains.

Detectives with Post 6 are actively working to determine the cause and reason for the fire and identify the victim involved. Anyone with information surrounding the incident is encouraged to contact Post 6 at 859-428-1212. An autopsy is scheduled for tomorrow in Louisville, KY.

Detective Jeffrey Gaby is leading the ongoing investigation. He was assisted on scene by KSP Personnel, Bourbon County Fire Department, Bourbon County Coroner, and KSP Post 7 Arson Investigator.


BOURBON COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – Detectives say a body found in a burning car could turn into a homicide investigation.

According to the Kentucky State Police, a passing motorist spotted what they thought was a barn on fire just off the road at the Francis Hall House, 505 Hutchinson Road, at about 5:30 a.m.

When firefighters arrived, they discovered it was a car — a four-door sedan — on fire. The car had been pulled inside the double barn door. Once the blaze was extinguished, firefighters discovered a badly burned body inside, according to the KSP.

The trunk of the car was partially opened and the body was in the trunk, according to the KSP.

The barn is on a farm near Bryan Station Road and the Fayette County line, but the KSP and Bourbon County Coroner’s office don’t think the car or body are connected to the farm or its owners.

The car is being pulled from the barn for better investigation and to remove the body, which will be taken to Louisville for an autopsy, according  to the KSP.

For now, the case is described as a death investigation that troopers say “could turn into a homicide investigation.”

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