NORTH SMITHFIELD – A 43-year-old man convicted of murder for a crime he committed at the age of 17 was granted parole in Rhode Island this week, and must now serve time in a neighboring state for crimes there.
Steven Parkhurst was a senior at North Smithfield High School in 1992 when he was involved in the murder of another young man. He was convicted in the shooting death of 20-year-old Trevor Ramella in an incident outside Ramella’s home.
In the investigation that followed, dozens of teenagers described their version of the incident, in which five days of parties at Ramella’s home ended in the tragedy. After shooting Ramella, Parkhurst reportedly took off with a friend in a stolen vehicle, beginning a crime spree that would include shooting another man in Mystic, Conn., and multiple attempted robberies before they were finally caught by police in Indiana.
Ramella’s family was on vacation in the Grand Cayman Islands at the time.
Parkhurst was ultimately sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years.
Since the conviction, Parkhurst had made news for other reasons, including participation in “scared straight” style programs that aim to help other juveniles avoid his fate. He earned both his associate’s and bachelor’s degrees while in prison and started an MBA program through Adam’s State University, and reportedly trained 14 dogs to serve people with disabilities.
He challenged his sentence as cruel and unusual punishment due to his age at the time of the crimes, but was denied. In a lawsuit filed in 2017, Parkhurst argued that the parole board violated his rights by not considering his youth as a mitigating factor, and failing to offer children who were tried as adults and sentenced to mandatory life terms a meaningful opportunity to gain release.
Last year, the Rhode Island Parole Board revised its guidelines to consider age, and rehabilitation efforts in release decisions for those convicted of crimes before the age of 18.
And in an unanimous decision by the board on Wednesday, Sept. 4, Parkhurst was found to have met parole release criteria.
He must now serve nine years for armed robbery in Connecticut.