Carolee Sadie Ashby’s family has spent the past 45 years wondering who was driving the car that fatally struck the 4-year-old girl as she crossed a street in her upstate New York hometown one October night.
Thanks to a retired detective, authorities provided an answer Wednesday: A man who police say misled them when questioned about the girl’s death in 1968 and then sat on the secret for more than four decades.
Douglas Parkhurst, 62, of the town of Oswego, has been identified as the driver of a car that failed to stop after hitting Carolee, the Fulton Police Department said. But Parkhurst won’t be charged because the statute of limitations has expired.
The girl, her sister and a cousin were returning from a neighborhood store after buying candles for the sibling’s 15th birthday when Carolee was hit. She later died from her injuries.
Parkhurst was questioned at the time when police learned he had been in an accident that same night. He confirmed a crash, but said it occurred in the neighboring town of Volney. Although his claims that he had hit a guard post didn’t match up with the damage to his vehicle, Parkhurst wasn’t questioned again, police said.
The mystery endured for nearly a half-century.
Police checked out hundreds of leads over the years and reopened of the case in 2000, but the break came early last year after retired Fulton police Lt. Russ Johnson posted details of the case on a local history site. A former resident now living in Florida saw the posting and came forward with new information.
The woman told police that she was approached by a member of the Parkhurst family soon after the accident and asked to say she was with Parkhurst and his brother that night. The woman refused to do so and was never told why they wanted her alibi.
Her information prompted investigators to go to Parkhurst’s home 35 miles north of Syracuse and question him again.
“He invited us into his home,” police Sgt. Stephen Lunn said. “At the time, he didn’t give any indication that he had any guilt to this, so to speak.”
Over the course of several interviews, Parkhurst admitted he was drinking beer the night of the accident and was driving through Fulton with his brother passed out in the back seat when he hit something. He said he believed at the time he had hit an animal, but now knows it was Carolee. He admitted that he initially lied when questioned about the accident in 1968.