The West Philadelphia babysitter charged in the death and disappearance of a 2-year-old boy in her care was ordered to stand trial for murder on Wednesday after prosecutors presented video and cellphone evidence that they said tied her to the slaying.
Tianna Parks, 25, is accused of fatally injuring King Hill and disposing of his body in either the Schuylkill or in curbside trash in the 100 block of Penn Street, Assistant District Attorney Chesley Lightsey told Municipal Court Judge Joffie Pittman.
Based on internet searches Parks conducted on her cellphone around the time King disappeared, authorities believe she fractured his skull, killing him.
“The force that it takes to do that shows intent,” Lightsey said, arguing that a jury should decide if Parks is guilty of first-degree murder, which requires premeditation and malice, or third-degree murder, which requires malice but not premeditation.
“What is most likely is that Tianna Parks lost her control with this child, whether it was potty training or something else. She hit him,” the prosecutor said, and instead of taking him to a doctor “she took him to the trash.”
Defense attorney James Funt argued that the evidence against Parks did not justify a first-degree murder count. He pointed to testimony from some witnesses that Parks is “kind, caring, and nurturing.”
Pittman ruled that a jury would decide between first- and third-degree murder.
King, who would have turned 3 on July 19, was last seen with Parks on June 27 on security camera video behind her apartment building in the 5300 block of West Montgomery Avenue. The child’s father, Marvin Reese, reported the child missing on July 8 after getting what he described as evasive responses from Parks when he asked about the child’s whereabouts.
Reese met her two years ago at a local gym — Parks had been training to become a boxer — and became her coach. He testified that he allowed her to watch his son and sent the boy to live with her in June. He said he did so because he thought he had COVID-19 and because he believed Parks provided a more stable environment for the child than the boy’s mother.
Reese, who said he often spoke to King on video phone calls, said that when he last spoke with him, on June 29, the boy said: “’I love you. Come get me. Please.’”
“That’s the last time I heard his voice,” Reese testified, fighting back tears.
In subsequent days, Reese said, he repeatedly texted Parks asking her to send him photos of King. He said she sent none but texted back to say she and the boy were in Atlantic City at a pool party and later in Ocean City, Md.
FBI Special Agent James Zajac testified that GPS data linked to Park’s cellphone indicated that on the days she said she was out of town with King she was actually in Philadelphia, primarily at her apartment. GPS data also indicated that on the morning of July 7, Parks spent about 20 minutes parked near Kelly Drive by the river, and in the 100 block of Penn Street.
Philadelphia Homicide Detective Laura Hammond testified that on July 16, police received a tip that a body had been dumped in the trash in that Penn Street block. But by the time police arrived, the trash on that block had already been picked up, incinerated at a Chester waste management facility, then buried in a Bensalem landfill, Hammond testified.
As early as June 24, Parks began doing internet searches on her phone on topics including skull fractures, how to treat a black eye, and what it means when a person exhibits “raccoon eyes,” Zajac testified.
Lightsey played video clips and showed photos from the security camera at Park’s apartment that show her repeatedly departing and returning without King in late June and early July; and of her struggling to carry with both arms a large red suitcase and placing it in the trunk of her car on July 6.
On July 7, Parks was filmed at a Lancaster Avenue car wash removing the suitcase from the trunk with one hand and placing it in the backseat.