The relatives of a 4-year-old girl killed in a hit-and-run incident a half-century ago in upstate New York said they feel relief that the man responsible for her death died at the hands of a hit-and-run driver Friday in Sanford.

On Halloween night in 1968, Darlene Ashby McCann of Palermo, New York, was holding the hand of her little sister, Carolee Ashby, when Douglas Parkhurst, then 18, hit the child from behind with his Buick Special as they walked along a road in Fulton, New York. It was McCann’s 15th birthday and the sisters were walking to the store to buy candles for her cake.

Carolee Ashby

The case remained unsolved for 44 years, until a tip led to Parkhurst’s confession to police in 2013.

But for almost 50 years, even after the confession, the case has haunted Carolee Ashby’s family.

Parkhurst, 68, of West Newfield, died when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver during a Babe Ruth baseball game Friday evening at Goodall Park in Sanford. Police said Carol Sharrow, 51, of Sanford, drove her maroon Honda sedan onto the field, and it was unclear why Sharrow hit Parkhurst, who was there to watch his grandson play in the game.

Some witnesses said Parkhurst pushed several children to safety, while others said he was closing the park gate when he was hit. Police said there was no connection between Sharrow and Parkhurst, who moved to Maine five years ago. Sharrow has been charged with manslaughter and is being held at the York County Jail in Alfred. She has two previous drunken driving convictions – in Maine and New Hampshire – but police would not say whether alcohol was involved in Friday’s incident.

“I am overwhelmed by it all,” McCann said Sunday, speaking from her home in upstate New York.

She said the news has produced a feeling of relief for the first time since her sister’s death.

Carol Sharrow

“He left us all these years with nothing, not even an ‘I’m sorry,’ ” McCann said of Parkhurst.

She said the ironic cause of Parkhurst’s death was just one of many strange circumstances connecting the two cases 50 years apart. It was striking that Sharrow’s first name is so similar to Carolee’s, she said, and she also believes that the death of her husband, Larry, from cancer two weeks ago had something to do with it all.

McCann said her father, George, died without knowing about Parkhurst’s confession, and her mother, Marlene, died last year without ever receiving an apology.

“I know my mom would have been grateful that children were saved. Sometime I may be able to forgive him, but not right now,” McCann said.

She was in Texas for a granddaughter’s high school graduation Saturday when she heard about Parkhurst’s death.

Douglas Parkhurst

“It feels it has made a full circle. 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,” McCann said.

She said she has suffered from depression since her sister’s death.

“People say, “It has been 50 years. Get over it,’ ” McCann said. But she couldn’t.

Ken Sturtz, a former night crime reporter at The Post-Standard newspaper in Syracuse, spent 18 months reporting on the events leading to Parkhurst’s confession.

“It s a bizarre ending to a terrible, sad story,” Sturtz observed Sunday.

When the story broke in 2013 that Parkhurst had confessed to Fulton police that he was responsible for the death of Carolee, Sturtz said he wanted to know why it had taken the department 44 years to solve the crime.

“The police had said Doug Parkhurst had been a suspect in 1968 and had never been arrested. That struck me as very odd,” Sturtz said.

He spent months looking into the case. He said it took several weeks to sift through the 200 pages of police investigative documents. There were no clearcut answers to why police did not charge Parkhurst, who claimed at the time that a dent in his Buick Special resulted from a crash into a guardrail.

The documents showed police were skeptical of that explanation, but it was unclear why police did not continue to investigate Parkhurst.

The documents included information from a tip received by police in 1974. The tipster claimed to have overheard an inebriated man at a party claim he had hit Carolee and gotten away with it.

“The guy was none other than Doug Parkhurst,” Sturtz said.

The case was reopened in 2000, but went nowhere. It wasn’t until 2012, when a retired Fulton police investigator, Russ Johnson, posted a comment about the case on the Fulton community Facebook page that a woman reached out with a tip that ultimately led to Parkhurst’s confession.

He was questioned by police several times in 2013 along with members of the large Parkhurst family. Sturtz said that once Parkhurst had obtained a written statement from prosecutors saying that he would not be prosecuted and that the statute of limitations had expired decades earlier, he finally confessed in a four-page signed statement.

Sturtz said Parkhurst moved to Maine shortly after his confession became public. He never agreed to talk to Sturtz, who said he reached out to 100 or so friends and relatives of Parkhurst. A registered letter sent by Sturtz to Parkhurst in Maine was received by Parkhurst, who never responded.

In a seven-part series in 2014, Sturtz reported that the only contact the Ashby family had with Parkhurst after his confession was a single phone call he made to McCann. Parkhurst told her, “I am not sure that I did it,” McCann said.

Sturtz left journalism last year but still lives in the Syracuse area.

Other members of the large Ashby family, who like the Parkhursts have lived in New York’s Oswego County for nearly 200 years, reacted to reports of Parkhurst’s possible heroism Friday night in Maine with skepticism. McCann’s daughter-in-law, Robyn McCann, commented on Parkhurst’s death on the Portland Press Herald website after the story appeared Saturday.

She said her family had held candlelight vigils and news conferences “begging someone with information to come forward to give our family answers and closure,” and that it went on far too long.

She said that to the family, Parkhurst was not a hero, but someone whose act in 1968 has haunted her family ever since.

“Mr. Parkhurst put my family thru hell for decades,” she wrote.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: bquimby

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