Players scrambled and parents screamed as the maroon sedan ripped through the baseball field, infield dust flying into the Friday evening from under the car's spinning tires.
Spectators in the stands of Goodall Park in Sanford, Maine, watched as the car wheeled down the first base line, hooked right at home plate, and gunned for a metal fence leading into the parking lot. The front bumper was careening toward 68-year-old Douglas Parkhurst and a group of children. Parkhurst, a New York native and Vietnam veteran, moved the kids from the car's path and attempted to close a gate to keep the sedan in the ballpark when he was struck, authorities told ABC 8.
"I saw the car pull out of the gate right over there and this guy had some kids with him," a witness told News Center Maine. "The older guy pushed the kids right out of the way. He took the hit for the kids."
Parkhurst died from his injuries on the way to the hospital. The sedan's driver, 51-year-old Carol Sharrow, was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter.
"We want to share our heartfelt gratitude that physically all of the players from Babe Ruth and Little League are safe," the Sanford Maine Little League posted on Facebook following the incident. "[A]nd our deep sorrow to the family of the brave man that gave his life tonight protecting others."
However, the hero's death that settled around Parkhurst's end was complicated when the news landed 400 miles to the west in Fulton, New York. There, five years ago, Parkhurst walked into a local police station to confess to the 1968 hit-and-run death of Carolee Ashby. The four-year-old, cut down crossing a street on Halloween, haunted the close-knit Oswego County region for decades, prompting cold case investigators to repeatedly try to identify the driver responsible.
But Parkhurst, who admitted in 2013 he was behind the wheel of his 1962 Buick Special with his brother Lenny after a night of drinking, only came forward after the statute of limitations had run out the crime, The Post-Standard in Syracuse has reported. Parkhurst served no time for killing a young girl with his car.
And now, in a Hollywood twist, Parkhurst has been killed saving children from a car.
"It feels it has made a full circle," Ashby's sister, Darlene Ashby McCann, told the Portland Press Herald. "Now I am relieved. I truly am. The same thing that happened to my sister happened to him. It made a complete circle. Now it is time to move on."
On a chilly Halloween night in 1968, Carolee Ashby was crossing a street in Fulton with her older sister, Darlene, the Post-Standard reported in 2014. It was the elder Ashby girl's 15th birthday, and the sisters had gone out to buy candles for a cake. Carolee was eating an ice cream cone as she walked hand-in-hand with Darlene through the intersection. Darlene later explained she suddenly felt a tug on her arm, according to the Post-Standard.
"For a second, I didn't know if somebody had tried to grab Carolee from me," Darlene later recounted, "I knew immediately that Carolee was not there."
A passing car had drifted into the middle of the road, knocking Carolee 133 feet up the road. A motorist who witnessed the accident later told Fulton police he believed a teddy bear had been hit and thrown. The little girl was knocked out of her black cowboy boots; they lay 20 feet from where her body lay near the curb.
The driver sped off. Witnesses varied on the make and color of the vehicle. But not long after the accident, Fulton police received a tip that an 18-year-old named Douglas Parkhurst had bashed his Buick Special against a pole and returned home in tears on Halloween. Parkhurst was interviewed for two hours, but denied playing a part in the fatal accident.
Police, however, were skeptical of his story. Investigators looked at the damage to his car and even had him take officers out to where he claimed he'd hit his car against a roadside guardrail, the Post-Standard reported. But police failed to follow up on Parkhurst. The suspect went off to serve in Vietnam, then returned to the region. The case sat open for decades but wasn't forgotten.
"It was mind-blowing that the community had remained so distraught over the decades," former Fulton police officer Russ Johnson told the Press Herald.
In 2012, after Johnson had retired from law enforcement, he wrote a post on Facebook about the unsolved 1968 homicide. The note prompted a local woman then living in Florida to come forward with new information, according to the Post-Standard. The woman eventually told investigators she had been asked by the Parkhursts to say she had been with them on Halloween 1968. She refused, suspecting the request was tied to the hit-and-run.
In March 2013, Fulton investigators knocked on Parkhurst's door. Then a father and grandfather, Parkhurst denied remembering anything about the dead girl. When showed a picture of his Buick Special, Parkhurst said he did not know if he was driving it at the time. "I'm not going to say it is and I'm not going to say it isn't because I can't honestly . . . remember," he told police, according to a 2013 police report.
Police continued to press Parkhurst and his family. Eventually, he met with the local district attorney, who explained Parkhurst could not be criminally charged. Fifteen days after police first knocked on his door, Parkhurst appeared at the Fulton police station. Through tears, he confessed.
In a written statement, Parkhurst explained he had been drinking with his brothers before he started driving his car. His brother Lenny was passed out in the back seat.
"I heard a thud," he wrote. "It sounded like I hit a dog . . . . I did not see what I hit. I did not stop. I don't remember hitting the breaks. . . . I don't remember seeing any kids but I believe in my heart I hit the little Ashby girl with my car. I did not see her or any other kids."
Parkhurst wrote in his confession he had lied to police about the damage to his car in 1968. "I don't know why the police never challenged me on this. I wish they did. I would have told them the truth."
In early 2014, the Post-Standard ran a series on the case, highlighting the Fulton police's bungling of the original investigation. Parkhurst never publicly commented on the situation. He eventually left New York for Maine after his story was circulated in Oswego County.
Ashby's sister Darlene responded to the news of Parkhurst's death with mixed emotion. "I know my mom would have been grateful that children were saved," she told the Press-Herald. "Sometime I may be able to forgive him, but not right now."