The Fairfield Wives

Dr. John Parkinson, a civic and religious leader in the perfectly suburban town of Fairfield, told women they needed pelvic exams. Long exams. Several times a week. For years. And they believed him.

In the car on the way home, and for a very long time after that, Susan and Kym Collins would wonder how things could have gone so far awry, and how they could ever have been a part of it.

Everett Gremminger thought he'd never stop hearing about John Parkinson. After the Medical Board hearing that should have ended Parkinson's career, Gremminger received anonymous phone calls from people saying that Parkinson was still treating women. But there wasn't much he could do about it without any evidence. And then, in August 1995, he received the call alleging Parkinson had molested Susan and Kym Collins. Gremminger interviewed the Collins women, and then he called the Fairfield Police Department. This was no longer a matter for the Medical Board.

The following Friday morning, Parkinson left his office, got into his dark green Acura, and headed out of the parking lot. He had an appointment with U.S. Rep. Frank Riggs. Parkinson was prepared to explain to Riggs the details of a travesty that had been perpetrated against him by the Medical Board. But Parkinson never got out of the parking lot.

An unmarked police car blocked his exit. More patrol cars surrounded him. A cop leaned him against his car and patted him down. Fairfield Police Detective Joe Quinn began asking him questions about the Collins women, his medical license, and where he was going. Parkinson yelled to a janitor who'd come to see what was up: "Get Lou Madsen."

Madsen came out of his office in short order. Parkinson was very concerned about his appointment with Riggs, and told Quinn that he had some important papers he had to deliver there. They went into Parkinson's office and arranged for Madsen to fax the papers. (Riggs did not return calls seeking comment.) Then Parkinson was booked into Solano County Jail on charges of felony sexual assault and practicing medicine without a license.

It took a plethora of police officers the rest of that day and some of the next to remove and catalog what was confiscated from Parkinson's office. There were boxes upon boxes of drugs -- outdated medicines and the controlled substances that Parkinson had told a DEA agent months before he didn't have. There were gallons of K-Y jelly, creams, ointments, and piles of other unknown substances. Police found needles and syringes everywhere, even underneath potted plants.

Parkinson's office was known to be a mess -- patients often joked about not being able to walk through the clutter. But this was worse than a mess. There were boxes of papers everywhere, magazines and journals scattered about, dead and live plants, fertilizer, bags of candy and food on the counters.

More than 10 rubber-glove-wearing police officers searched Parkinson's seven-bedroom home in the quiet, upscale neighborhood of Willotta Oaks, just outside of Fairfield proper. The place was an unbelievable wreck. Parkinson's wife Anne, still clad in her nightgown, was in the bedroom when the cops arrived at 11:30 a.m. The search did not stop until 9:30 that evening. Police found more drugs, syringes, needles, and ointments in cabinets and on counters throughout the master bedroom and bathroom, in the basement, in other parts of the house, even in the refrigerator. One officer on the scene said they didn't realize there was a tub in one of the bathrooms until they moved some of the stuff dumped in it. In total, police removed eight truckloads of drugs, syringes, medicines, vitamins, and the like from Parkinson's home and office.

While John Parkinson was preparing to defend himself against criminal charges in Solano Superior Court, yet another drama was unfolding in Fairfield. It had nothing whatsoever to do with pelvic exams.

Parkinson's 25-year-old son James had long suffered from schizophrenia and lived in a Fairfield mental health facility called Stargate. That is, until the afternoon of June 8, 1996, when he ran away. What happened next remains the subject of intense controversy and a civil lawsuit against Fairfield Police.

What's clear is that James had slipped into a full-blown psychotic episode. Shortly after 3 p.m., he kicked off his shoes, told no one in particular that God had instructed him to do three somersaults, and took off across Kidder Avenue doing just that.

Within minutes, Fairfield Police began receiving calls from nearby residents about a naked man -- James stripped shortly after leaving the Stargate facility -- who was running through the neighborhood, breaking windows. By now, James was bleeding from cuts on his hands and arms, but that didn't slow him down any. When the police finally arrived, a growing knot of neighbors pointed them toward the Birchwood apartment complex.

According to police reports, Fairfield Officer Bob Bunting chased James around the pool at the complex, but James wasn't losing any steam, nor was he interested in anything Bunting ordered him to do. Police officers continued to arrive (there would be nine by the time all was said and done), and paramedics were standing by until the area was "secured."

James didn't have a weapon of any sort. He didn't even have shoes or clothes.

On three occasions, James ran toward Bunting, and on all three occasions, Bunting sprayed James with pepper spray. It didn't stop him. While they continued to run around the pool, another officer shot James with a Tasertron, the electric stun gun used by the Fairfield Police Department. Two darts landed in James' upper back and butt, and attached wires sent an electrical current into James' body. He hit the ground, rolled over -- which pulled the darts out -- and started to masturbate.

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