Man sentenced to life for setting fire that killed Fort Worth widow

01/22/2014 9:49 PM

01/22/2014 9:51 PM

A man who admitted setting a fire in 2011 to inconvenience two housemates has been sentenced to life in prison because the woman who owned the house died nearly two months later of thermal injuries.

Cliff Douglas Parker, 56, of Fort Worth was convicted last week of manslaughter for recklessly causing the death of Betty Roberts, 67, the widow of a Fort Worth police officer.

On Wednesday, after jurors heard evidence that Parker had a prior conviction for arson, they took only an hour to sentence him to life in prison, according to a news release from the Tarrant County district attorney’s office.

Roberts died after 52 days in the burn unit of Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, the release stated.

Prosecutors presented evidence that Roberts was kind-hearted woman who looked after animals and people who had fallen on hard times.

That was the condition of Parker, who was living with two other people at Roberts’ home in the 8100 block of Arbor Avenue in west Fort Worth, prosecutors said.

Parker, an alcoholic, argued with the housemates on Sept. 19, 2011. Roberts, on her way to work, asked him to leave, but he came back later that night, and more drinking and arguing ensued, according to the news release.

Later, while everyone was asleep, Parker set a garage sofa on fire.

One of the housemates got out of the house. Parker shoved at police officers who tried to rescue Roberts and Freddie Thomas, the second housemate. Both went to Parkland, and Thomas survived, but Roberts’ lungs had been seared by smoke and debris.

Parker told investigators that he started the fire to “smoke up the residence to the point where everyone had to leave.”

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