(MARYVILLE, Mo.) — Moments after a Missouri businessman was found guilty of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl, a stunned courtroom looked on as he apparently ingested a lethal dose of cyanide, according to the Nodaway County Sheriff’s Office.
Steve Parsons, 48, was convicted of statutory sodomy on June 27, a charge that could have carried a sentence of up to seven years in prison.
As the judge polled each juror on their verdict, Sheriff Darren White said Parsons got up from the defense table, and walked over to where he was seated at the bailiff’s station to get a drink.
“Steve Parsons is a guy I have known for years. This is a small community, so everybody knows everybody,” White told ABC News.
“He said, ‘I’m going to throw up,’ and he picked up one of the drinks, took a short sip, set it down and went back to his seat,” White said.
Two minutes later, White said Parsons lowered his head, arched his back and began having a seizure while he was seated at the defense table.
“Everybody was pretty stunned,” White said.
As an officer cleared the court room, White, who is a former paramedic, and several other people with medical training, tried to care for Parsons until an ambulance arrived.
Parsons was taken to St. Francis Hospital in Maryville as doctors attempted to stabilize him, White said. He was transferred to Heartland Regional Medical Center in St. Joseph, Mo., where he was pronounced dead an hour and a half after the court room incident.
An autopsy was performed in Kansas City, where White said the coroner called it a “classic case of cyanide poisoning.”
While the official toxicology report will not be available for a few more weeks, White said a search of Parsons’ home and car showed he had ordered a quantity of cyanide.
Parsons’ attorney Hugh Kranitz told ABC News he had no idea what was going through his client’s mind on the day of the verdict.
“He appeared to be like any other defendant, nervous and waiting for a verdict,” Kranitz said.
Parsons’ death came nearly one year to the day after an Arizona millionaire, who had just been convicted of arson, popped something into his mouth in the court room and died minutes later.
Michael Marin, 53, was convicted on June 28, 2012 of purposefully burning down his $2.55 million mansion in the tony Biltmore Estates neighborhood of Phoenix after he was unable to keep up with mortgage payments and a plan to raffle his house through a charity fundraiser failed. He faced up to 16 years in prison.
After the guilty verdict on one count of arson was read, a seemingly distraught Marin buried his face into his hands and appeared to place something in his mouth.
His face began to turn red. Minutes later, he took a sip of a liquid from a plastic sports bottle, turned to get a tissue, experienced convulsions and collapsed.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Eric Schulzke, Deseret News