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Jared Parks, 18, was found dead on Interstate 35/80 near the Beaver Avenue Bridge in Polk County, Iowa, on Monday, May 11, 2009. He’d been hit by at least two semi tractor-trailers.
Troopers were called to the scene at 11:46 p.m.
The driver of the first big rig said the boy was lying on the roadway and looked unconscious in the moments before he was hit, and the medical examiner ruled out a fall from an overpass.
Two of the tractor-trailer drivers waited for troopers and were questioned at the scene. Troopers believe a third truck may also have run over the teen.
Polk County Medical Examiner Dr. Gregory Schmunk said that Parks died from blunt force trauma and his injuries were consistent with being hit by a truck. Schmunk said there was nothing to indicate that Parks was injured before the crash or that he might have jumped from the bridge.
Investigators never found Jared’s cell phone, and his wallet, earrings and tennis shoes were also missing. They have ruled the death as suspicious.
Jared’s parents, Tammy and Chad Parks of Urbandale, said Jared was with his girlfriend the night of his death but left her house shortly after 9:30 p.m. He didn’t take his car and told his girlfriend he’d be right back. It was the last time anyone heard from him.
Parks had graduated from Urbandale High School early, but was going to be a part of the commencement ceremony.
The Department of Public Safety is trying to put together the final hours of Parks’ life and want help learning where he was between 9:30 p.m. and midnight on May 11.
“As part of any investigation, the more information we have the better we are able to make a determination of cause and manner of death,” said Kevin Winker, DCI assistant director. “Right now, we don’t have that. So any information that we would have that anybody is willing to provide in reference to Jared Parks would be helpful in completing a thorough investigation.”
The Wednesday night following Parks’ death, hundreds gathered at the Bridge Church in Johnston for a vigil and to remember Jared. After several minutes of silence, they lit hundreds of candles. The teen’s funeral was held the following Monday.
Jared’s parents believe there’s someone who knows how their son ended up in the middle of the interstate, and have offered a $10,000 reward for information. They are asking anyone with information about their son’s death to come forward.
A fund also has been set up for donations that can be made at any Wells Fargo bank.
“They did say definitely his injuries were not consistent with coming from the bridge, so he didn’t fall. He didn’t jump. He didn’t get pushed from the bridge, his body was put on the road,” said Tammy Parks.
Jared sent his mom a couple of text messages around 9:30 p.m. that night saying he would be home around 11:30 p.m. The family said from that point on there were few calls or texts to or from Jared’s phone.
Jared’s parents said investigators were able to track the phone from a cell tower near where Jared’s body was found, but it was never recovered. His parents believe someone may have tossed it out.
The Iowa DCI does have at least one theory about what happened to Parks but needs more proof. They continue to work the case and also are asking for the public’s help.
In a Des Moines Register article published May 30, 2012, Parks’ mother, Tammy Parks, said she would never let her son’s case go cold.
“I talk to the detectives several times a week,” Tammy Parks said. “I know they have other cases. I understand that. But I’m never giving up on this. I have to know what happened to him.”
Tammy told the Register she believes her son, then 17, was murdered. Although the case is officially classified as a suspicious death, she worries one day it will be classified a cold case.
“They’re still interviewing people, and they’re still ruling people out,” she said. “That’s progress. You want to keep moving, but also know the longer it goes, the harder it will be to come up with leads.”
Iowa no longer has a state cold case unit, and even the Des Moines Police Department, with 379 sworn officers, has no unit assigned specifically to older unsolved cases. Barring bolt-from-the-blue moments, the Register reported, information on many of Iowa’s unsolved crimes is left to languish in long-untouched cabinets or computer files because law enforcement agencies simply don’t have the time or money to pursue them.
“We might assign a detective to take two weeks and go over a cold case and see if there was something that is missed that can be pursued today,” Sgt. Chris Scott, Des Moines police spokesman, told the Register. “But it isn’t something we can do on a very regular basis.”
Still, Jared Parks’ parents will never give up. Despite the years of heartache and pain since their son’s death, they won’t rest until they have answers.
Jared Andrews Parks, the son of Chad and Tammy Halling Parks, was born October 5, 1990, in Webster City.
Jared grew up in the communities of Dows, Clarion, Ankeny and Urbandale. He attended schools in Ankeny, West Des Moines and Urbandale. Having completed his high school education in December 2008, Jared was scheduled to graduate from Urbandale High School within one week.
Jared was an aspiring, well-liked young man who is remembered for his love of basketball and listening to music, particularly Lil’Wayne. Jared liked playing his PS3 and going to the movies.
Memorial services were held at 3 p.m. on Monday, May 18, at New Hope Assembly Church 6800 Townsend in Urbandale, with the Pastor James Weaver officiating. More than 400 family members, friends, classmates, educators and community members attended.
Friends and relatives called on the family from 12 to 2:30 p.m. Monday, May 18, at New Hope Assembly Church. Arrangements were conducted by Dugger Funeral Home, 320 East St. in Latimer.
Jared was survived by his parents, Chad and Tammy; a sister, Adra; maternal grandparents, Ron Halling of Blairsburg, Susie Anliker and husband, Dave, of Hardy; paternal grandparents, Larry and Anita Parks of Latimer; maternal great-grandmother, Dorothy Halling of Boone; paternal great-grandmother, Dorothy Parks of Hampton; aunt and uncles, Micki and Jason, Marc, Brad, Matt; numerous other great-aunts and uncles; cousins; relatives and friends.
He was preceded in death by his grandparents and great-grandparents.
Parents Want Answers in 2-Year-Old Murder Case | KCCI Channel 8, May 11, 2011
Anyone with information, no matter how small, is urged to call the Iowa State Patrol at 515-323-4360 or Polk County Crime Stoppers at 515-223-1400.