2 inmates at center of former Chesterfield Co. sheriff's arrest testify

by: Greg Suskin Updated:


CHESTERFIELD, S.C. - One of the most shocking charges against former sheriff Sam Parker concerns the freedoms he allegedly gave two inmates, William Skipper and Michael Lee.  

On Thursday, the jury heard from those inmates for the first time.
Lee walked into court wearing the prison uniform he says he rarely wore when Parker was sheriff.
Lee told the court he and Skipper were allowed to move out of the jail into the armory with the sheriff's blessing. 
They were working at the armory, renovating it and building an entire second floor. 
Lee said living there was like a dream.
"We were just away from the pressure of jail, living that life," Lee said.
Prosecutors showed the jury pictures of what Lee was able to do with his new room at the armory.  He brought in big-screen TVs, a lazy boy chair, bought a new softer mattress and other furniture. 
Most of the time Lee said no one was around to supervise him and Skipper.
They had keys to the building, the gate and all the sheriff's cars parked at the armory. 
They wore plain clothes all the time, he testified.
Lee said deputies tipped him whenever the state jail inspector came, so he could put his prison clothes back on.
"We always knew when he was coming. We'd put the blue shirt on that said Chesterfield County," he said.
Lee was serving 15 years for arson but Thursday, the jury saw pictures of Lee at the grill at a party hosted by the sheriff at the pool he said he helped install at Parker's home.
Another photo showed Lee in a SWAT uniform dressed up for a Halloween parade. Where he mingled with the crowd and no one could tell he was an inmate.
Lee said the two men were also at Parker's home all the time, either working on small things or for parties and holidays.
Lee said at the armory where he and Skipper lived, there were security cameras but he could turn them off at any time, and often did when a woman would come over to have sex with him.
He also said he went out to eat often in North Carolina with Parker and his family.
"We were doing it every Thursday for awhile," he said.
Lee testified that he often rode to church in Cheraw with Parker or his wife Pam and their daughter.  There were no law enforcement officers supervising him.
Parker's defense attorney attacked Lee getting him to admit that he had lied under oath before by telling a grand jury that he had a college degree. 
Lee admitted Thursday that he had no degree and lied about his educational background.
Later, former inmate Skipper testified about the freedoms he said he was given under Parker. 
Skipper echoed much of Lee's testimony and said he was able to live outside the jail, drive county vehicles and also shoot Sheriff's Office weapons outside Parker's home when Parker was present.
Lee testified that things started to change when news broke about the dogs that Chesterfield County Animal Control officers had shot and killed a few years ago and dumped them in a landfill.
Lee said because the news was covering that story and the two inmates were told to go back and live in the jail again.
Prosecutors told Channel 9 they don't expect to finish their case until Monday or Tuesday.
Defense lawyer Johnny Gasser would not say if Parker will testify in his own defense.