PORT SALERNO, Fla. - Major breakthroughs in an extremely cold case led to a murder suspect appearing before a judge Friday.
42-year-old Chester Price, originally of Stuart, made his first appearance in court Friday morning after a grand jury indictment, on charges that he kidnapped and murdered 10-year-old Andrea Parsons in Port Salerno.
The suspect's arrest came under out-going Martin County Sheriff Bob Crowder. But the sheriff-elect, William Snyder, actually worked the "missing juvenile" case when it broke, as the Chief of Detectives.
Snyder said he can never forget the phone call about a "missing juvenile."
"It was really unheard-of, in Martin County at that time, for a child to disappear, and just never be found again," he recalled. "This case starts in the summer of 1993, so we're looking at almost 20 years ago. But I remember it like it was yesterday."
Snyder remembers the inch-by-inch search of woods and a nearby neighborhood.
"Just picture, you're a cop, how do you find out if she's in there? You got to go in there," he explained, pointing at brush thickets near the dead end of Ebbtide Avenue, where Parsons was last seen. "We went all along those tracks, and through that vegetation area in there, checking for remains."
Detectives have long believed another man, Claude Davis, was with Chester Price on that fateful night 19 years ago. Davis was arrested, but never tried, for Parsons' kidnapping. Because the charge was dropped, legal experts say it appears Davis cannot be tried again in this case.
The state attorney says Price could be arraigned on first degree murder and kidnapping charges in the next few weeks.
Back then, Snyder said the sheriff's office worked around the clock, leaving no stone unturned in the Port Salerno neighborhood where Parsons disappeared.
"At first, we wanted to find Andrea Gail Parsons alive," Snyder said. "That was our hope. We had search teams out here, we had dogs out here, we had men on horseback, helicopters, canine units. It became pretty apparent after a period of time that we were not likely to find the child alive, and then our focus became could we find remains, could we bring some closure to Andrea Parsons' mother."
Detectives will not yet disclose the clues they say tie Chester Price to this cold case. They now hope for a murder and kidnapping conviction, for some small measure of peace for a little girl's grieving mother.
"Here we are almost 20 years later, with me coming back to the Sheriff's Office, and maybe a major step towards resolving this case once and for all," said Snyder.