Douglas Parkhurst, right, being interviewed by police in a scene from “The Hero of Goodall Park.” Screenshot courtesy of ESPN

The family of Carolee Ashby, who was killed in 1968 at the age of 4, has finally gotten an apology for the hit-and-run that took her life and remained a mystery for 45 years.

If not for the ironic death of the man whose car struck the little girl – himself killed by a hit-and-run driver in Sanford 50 years later – it might never have happened at all.

The apology will be seen by a nationwide TV audience Tuesday as part of an ESPN film called “The Hero of Goodall Park,” centered on the death of Douglas Parkhurst in June 2018. Parkhurst, 68, of West Newfield, was struck and killed by Carol Sharrow, who had driven her car onto a field full of players and coaches at Goodall Park in Sanford. Parkhurst had left the grandstand, was seen trying to push players away from the moving car and was trying to close a gate to the park when he was struck.

Parkhurst was at first hailed by some as a hero. In writing about his death, the Portland Press Herald reported that he had confessed in 2013 to the hit-and-run killing of Carolee Ashby on Halloween night in 1968 in Fulton, New York. The documentary shows the toll taken on three families by Parkhurst’s 45-year secret and his death, through interviews with Sharrow and members of the Parkhurst and Ashby families. Parkhurst’s 19-year old grandson, Douglas Parkhurst III, is seen being driven from Maine to upstate New York by the filmmakers, where he apologizes for his grandfather’s actions to Darlene Ashby McCann. McCann had been holding her sister Carolee’s hand, crossing a dark street, when a Buick driven by Parkhurst struck and killed the little girl.

It’s an apology the elder Parkhurst never made, the film reveals, even after Fulton Police officers suggested he do so. He could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had run out.

“That’s all my parents ever wanted, was for someone to say they were sorry and put some worth into her life,” McCann told Parkhurst III on camera, after he apologized and the two hugged. Later, alone on camera, McCann calls the elder Parkhurst’s death “poetic justice.” “Justice was served,” she said.

Carol Sharrow being interviewed in a scene from the ESPN film “The Hero of Goodall Park.” Screenshot courtesy of ESPN.

The hour-long documentary also features the first on-camera interview with Sharrow, who was found not criminally responsible for Parkhurst’s death. She was committed to the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta in April 2019 for an indefinite period. Court hearings after her arrest revealed she’s been treated for mental illness for more than 30 years.

In the interview, Sharrow told the film’s writer and narrator, Tom Junod, that earlier on the day of Parkhurst’s death, she had been planning to visit a venue her daughter was considering for her wedding. But because she “wasn’t feeling well” emotionally, she decided to stay home and avoid causing problems for her daughter. She told Junod she only has a “vague memory” of driving on the field where a Babe Ruth league baseball game was taking place. She said she has no memory of hitting Parkhurst.

Junod asked her if she was sorry for what happened.

“Sorry?” Sharrow asked, her voice breaking as she began to cry. “I’m going to have to live with this for the rest of my life. Taking another life, that’s terrible. There were 100 kids on that field, and they saw a man die, someone’s grandfather, someone’s father.”

During the interview, Sharrow was composed and thoughtful, a stark contrast to police footage included in the film that shows her being interrogated after her rampage at Goodall Park. She’s seen asking police if they knew Babe Ruth and says she played with the baseball legend. Goodall Park is a historic place and Babe Ruth did indeed play there once, in 1919. When police asked her about her bipolar disorder she says it’s “because of altitude and longitude.”

Junod narrates the film and appears frequently, looking over photos and talking to various people. He has written for many magazines, including Esquire, GQ, Life and Sports Illustrated. His Esquire story about children’s TV host Fred Rogers was the inspiration for the 2019 feature film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” starring Tom Hanks.

Tom Junod interviewing Carol Sharrow in a scene from the ESPN film “The Hero of Goodall Park.” Screenshot courtesy of ESPN

Junod said Monday that as soon as he heard about Parkhurst’s death at the historic ballpark – and the fact that he had struck and killed a girl 50 years earlier – he knew it had the makings of an “epic story.” Less than a month after Parkhurst was killed, Junod was working on the story – both print and film versions. The 15,000-word print version will be posted on Tuesday morning and the film will air at 7 p.m. Tuesday as part of the ESPN TV series “E60.”

“It has so many of the things that we as Americans try to work out in the ballpark, like karma, fate and redemption,” said Junod.

The film also goes into depth about the accident that killed Carolee Ashby in 1968. It had been a cold case until 2012 when a woman came forward to say that a member of Parkhurst’s family had asked her to serve as Parkhurst’s alibi for the night of Oct. 31, 1968. She refused, but was afraid to tell anyone about it for years. When Fulton Police reopened the case, they saw that Douglas Parkhurst’s name came up in the original investigation, and that he had told family members he was having nightmares about an accident that night, in which he thought he hit a post.

The film includes footage of the police confronting Parkhurst in 2013. Initially he denied hitting the girl, saying that if he had killed someone, he’d remember. Later he told police he was “99.9 percent” sure he hit Carolee. He said he had been drinking with his brother, who was passed out in the back seat of the car. Parkhurst signed a confession and was never prosecuted. He had been told by police before he confessed that the statute of limitations had expired.

Parkhurst moved away from Fulton after his confession and the resulting media coverage. He was at Goodall Park the day he was killed to watch one of his grandsons play baseball.

Fulton police officers say in the film that after Parkhurst confessed, they offered to arrange a meeting between him and the Ashby family, so the family could have some closure. But Parkhurst declined.

“As we’re walking him out to his car he says, ‘I really hope at some point in time I can do something to make up for this,’ ” said Michael Batstone, a former investigator with Fulton Police, in the film. “I think he was looking for redemption.” 

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