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.

But the episode wasn't over. In short order, James jumped up, announced, "You can't keep a good man down," and took off running again. The officer tried to fire the taser gun again, but it malfunctioned. Finally, one of the cops hit James with a shoulder block and knocked him to the ground. Three more cops held him down while another handcuffed him.

Then James began to suffer a seizure. The cops rolled him on his side and, they reported, the seizure stopped. A few minutes later, paramedics showed up. They strapped James onto a gurney, on his back. Somehow, James ended up on his stomach and seemed to calm down. Paramedics were preparing to treat him when they realized he wasn't breathing anymore. His heart had also stopped. James Parkinson was pronounced dead at 5:11 p.m., shortly after his arrival at NorthBay Medical Center. The event was officially termed "sudden death following a violent struggle."

It is probably impossible for anyone else to know or feel the impact that such a troubled life, and tragic death, has on a father.

By the time John Parkinson finally came to trial on criminal charges in May 1997, he (and his insurance company) had already settled 16 malpractice suits. San Francisco Superior Court Judge William Cahill had upheld the Medical Board's decision to revoke Parkinson's medical license. The doctor had spent 33 days in jail, during which time he was isolated from the general population. But he'd eventually made bail, and since then, he'd been at home with his family. The court also allowed him to go to church. Much of his time was devoted to preparing for the trial.

Parkinson's attorneys argued unsuccessfully for a change of venue. The court went through a series of judges trying to find someone to hear the case who did not have a conflict of interest of one sort or another, and finally landed with Solano Superior Court Judge James Moelk. Likewise, jury selection seemed to take forever. The court went through 120 prospective jurors before seating the seven women and five men who would decide the doctor's fate.

The Parkinson case was huge news in Solano County. The Fairfield Daily Republic had covered every step leading up to court. The city was now completely divided into guilty and not-guilty camps. People would stop Deputy District Attorney John Kealy in the hallway, in restaurants, even at his daughter's music recital to talk about the case. The courtroom was packed every day, mostly with Parkinson supporters. As time wore on, they seemed to be losing ranks but were still a viable force.

John Parkinson represented everything that this community believed in. To believe that he was guilty of the accusations against him meant believing that something vile and disgusting lay behind a man who walked among them, and who led them. If that dark side was somehow inside Dr. Parkinson, it could be inside anyone. And for many people of Fairfield, that prospect was just unthinkable.

The Collins women told their stories matter-of-factly on the stand. Parkinson was smart and articulate with his testimony. He said that he treated the women after he lost his license because they begged him to. He denied ever making a pass at Kym, and said that he'd given the poem to her because Susan had asked him to cheer her daughter up. Kym misunderstood its meaning, he said. Parkinson told the court he locked the exam room door to keep the janitor from coming in accidentally, and he'd blocked out the windows because construction workers were frequently on the roof of the building next door.

On June 2, after a day-and-a-half of deliberation, the jury convicted John Parkinson of 16 felony counts of sexual penetration and two felony counts of practicing medicine without a license. He was acquitted of illegal drug possession charges. Moelk sentenced Parkinson to six years in prison, but delayed the sentence pending an appeal.

Before that sentence was handed down, more than 125 people wrote letters to the court praising Parkinson as an exceptional, kind, generous, caring, and morally sound man.

Kym Collins moved to Southern California.
Rasmussen and her husband moved to a small town in Arkansas.
In his sentencing, Moelk noted that Parkinson had groomed his victims -- he established relationships whereby the women felt obligated because he was treating them for free, and intimidated because he insisted the treatment was medically necessary. Moelk also noted that Parkinson had used the Collins' religious faith and commitment, and their family friendship, to gain their complete trust.

"He has given the impression that he is indeed above the law, and seems convinced that the only one that can pass judgment on his behavior is not of this earth," Moelk wrote.

In September of last year, Dr. John Parkinson, through his new lawyer, George Costirillos, filed an appeal of his criminal conviction. In the appeal, he alleges that one of the jurors, a nurse, used her medical knowledge during deliberations in the case. He alleges that by doing so, she acted as an unsworn witness. The appeal is pending.

Meanwhile, John Parkinson remains at home, where he gardens, reads, and trains his pet cockatiel. One of his sons, his wife Anne, and her son live with him. The one thing that Geraldine Rasmussen and Chance Williams set out to accomplish nearly six years ago -- to keep Parkinson away from a member of their family -- is about the only thing that has not happened in and around the usually quiet town of Fairfield, California.

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