GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — In early August 1996, Joe Norman Parker Jr., better known as “Skipper,” was working at the UPS facility in Greensboro. One day, his mother says Skipper told her he planned to quit the job and go back to college. Hours later, he was dead.
It was Aug. 2 when morning commuters noticed a truck off the roadway on NC-68. At first, it appeared it was a traffic accident. When officers got there, they quickly realized they were dealing with something sinister. Bullet holes could be seen in the side of the truck. Inside, they found Skipper’s lifeless body.
“Any homicide that occurred in Greensboro gained a lot of attention,” said present-day Greensboro police Detective Tony Hinson, who pointed out that in 1996, the city’s homicide rate was much lower.
Described as having an “infectious zest for life,” Skipper grew up in Oak Ridge. He went to Oak Ridge Military Academy before going to Elon University for a year. However, Skipper’s mother said he underperformed, and his parents pulled him out, which led him to get a job at UPS working an early morning shift.
When he was killed, he was only weeks away from turning 20. Today, 25 years later, Skipper’s murder remains unsolved.
“Doing what any 20-year-old would do in the mid-’90s, trying to find himself, trying to figure out what he’s going to do with his life,” Hinson said.
12 years after Skipper’s murder, Greensboro police got a cold case grant and partnered with other local agencies to create a Triad Cold Case Initiative. The investigators screened about 135 unsolved homicides. Skipper’s case landed on Hinson’s shoulders.
“Of the top five that we narrowed down, this case was probably in the top five,” he recalled.
In the evidence locker floors below Hinson’s office, there’s a box labeled “Joe Parker.” Inside, there is a collection of reports, evidence and interviews which has been accumulating since 1996. When Hinson took over the case, the 23-year GPD veteran had some advantages those before him did not.
“The investigation began two-fold,” he explained.
Hinson needed to explore the possibility that Skipper’s murder was at random.
“Did he engage with someone in a verbal dispute, on the road, that ended in gunfire,” Hinson elaborated.
Due to the early-morning hours, and the area being relatively remote at the time, that theory was pushed aside.
“I’ve been more focused on what I call victimology. Looking at him,” Hinson added. “Did he have any personal enemies? Did he have anything going on with him?”
Hinson’s traveled to several states to interview persons of interest and those who knew Skipper. Still, he says the puzzle that is his case is missing several crucial pieces.
Hinson does have the ability to work backward in the case. He also has the ability to utilize modern-day technology, including entering the shell casings into the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network – NIBIN – so if the gun used to kill Skipper was used in another crime, they could potentially match it up. There’s also the possibility DNA advancements could provide a lead.
Still, Hinson said, all roads lead back to UPS.
“Really his only purpose for coming to Greensboro was employment,” he said.
Hinson continues to search for any employees who worked at the facility in the 1995-1996 timeframe.
“If they could come forward and say, ‘hey, I knew Skipper,’ just anything that would help us to kind of get an idea of what was going on with him, potentially at work,” he added.
Although Skipper’s mother declined to speak about the case on-camera, she did provide insight into and statements about the case. For example, she said his time at the military academy likely resulted in him placing unfounded trust in people he didn’t know.
“Because he attended ORMA, he fully adopted the military doctrine of brotherhood and loyalty. I believe that he believed most people shared that creed, and he became too trustworthy,” she said. “This would ultimately be his biggest mistake.”
She and Hinson share a similar hope that whoever knows who’s behind Skipper’s murder will come forward a quarter-century later.
“Just like Oak Ridge has changed in 25 years, those involved in Skipper’s death may have changed as well. Perhaps they no longer fear personal harm by protecting the guilty. They might find the weight of their sins too heavy to bear any longer. As I pray for justice for Skipper, I also pray for those responsible to seek repentance,” his mother said. “They must acknowledge the blood on their own hands for forgiveness.”
If you have information about Skipper’s death, you’re asked to contact Crime Stoppers at (336) 373-1000 or visit www.ggcrimestoppers.com to leave an online tip.
“Not knowing that motive, it does tear you a little bit,” Hinson said. “You don’t want to leave anything open.”
There is a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
Skipper would have turned 45 years old this past weekend.