Judge Parker thanks first responders and community as he prepares to return to work

Posted at 5:15 PM, Mar 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-11 22:06:30-04

GREAT FALLS – “In today’s world, it feels like kindness has really taken a back seat. This just reaffirmed that people are good.”

Nearly two weeks after almost losing his life, Judge John Parker is returning to work on Tuesday.

“I’m excited to get back into the courthouse. Up until now I’ve been medically ordered to not leave my house, this is a great first step.”

On Friday, March 1, emergency crews responded to a report of a missing person. Shortly upon arrival, Sheriff Jesse Slaughter identified that missing person as Judge Parker.

The Parker family adopted a dog that day. It was while Parker was letting the dog outside that he got away. Parker went after the dog, and not long after that lost his bearings.

“The biggest thing that I’m taking from this is just the overwhelming support of not only the search and rescue team, but from what I heard there were 70 plus people out looking for John that day,” Judge Parker’s wife, Carrie, said.

Four hours later, Parker was found alive. He had survived the Montana elements.

“As a former career prosecutor, I knew that law enforcement might need to give me serious backup in a number of situations, but I never dreamed it would go down like this,” Parker said.

Judge Parker will work half days and will not be doing any court hearings just yet. Instead, he’ll be researching, writing and reviewing court files.

But he won’t return without expressing his gratitude.

The Parker family wrote a letter to all emergency personnel and rescuers who saved his life that day.

“The community just really showed up for us. Even after we found John, people were still out looking for our dog,” Carrie said.

And to complete this happy ending, Duchess (now named Elsa), was found alive too.

“Looking back on it now, it’s like George Bailey. It’s a wonderful life,” Carrie said.

You can read the Parker family’s statement to first responders below:

Our family would like to thank everyone who took part in the incredible search and rescue effort that saved John’s life ten days ago. We do not know the names of all the individuals who joined in to help. Day by day, we are still learning more about who helped out and the many acts of compassion extended to all three of us.

We are so grateful to Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter and Undersheriff Cory Reeves for their brilliant planning and implementation of the rescue, and for the profound support and caring they gave Carrie and Charlie in the darkest hours. Detective Angel Creech was a godsend. We have learned that Deputy Jay Groskreutz worked relentlessly and skillfully to coordinate the efforts of all the agencies who took part, including the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO), Cascade County Search and Rescue, the Great Falls Police Department (GFPD), City-County Dispatch, Gore Hill Fire Department, Great Falls Emergency Services, Great Falls Victim-Witness Program, Montana Department of Justice, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and the Salvation Army’s Sally One unit.

We cannot say enough about the extraordinary helicopter rescue provided by the 40th Helicopter Squadron at Malmstrom Air Force Base. We specifically want to thank the pilots, Captains Nicklaus Fisher and Nicholas Cafaro; flight engineer Tech Sergeant Guy Regina; and 341st Medical Group flight surgeons Major Andrew Timboe and Captain Jackson Prestwood. We have also learned that GFPD Lieutenant Doug Mahlum, GFPD Detective Dan Smith and CCSO Corporal Jason Boyd found John’s footprints in the snow and helped guide the helicopter to John’s remote location. The entire rescue effort was a miracle for our family in every way possible. We can never thank you enough.

Charlie, age 10, specifically wants you all to know, “I am so lucky that my dad is still alive, and I am so grateful to all the people that found him. Thank you also to everyone who prayed with us.”

Special thanks to our neighbors Kurt Baltrusch, Jim Hinde and Sam Post, who all suited up immediately and volunteered to join the effort. We want to thank dozens of other friends who drove out and offered to help, snow gear on and ready to search. We are hearing new names almost every day. We learned that Tim Wilkinson, Paul Thompson and Rob Rippee went to great lengths to plow access routes for the rescue team and assist with the search, which was a great help due to the extreme drifting and severe weather conditions that day.

Thank you to our dear friends Pastor Barb Gwynn and Cathy Geoghegan who stood by Carrie and Charlie during the search, and all friends from our church family at First English Evangelical Lutheran Church. Your prayers and support, together with prayers, concern and love from so many family and friends across the country and around the world, have been a tremendous comfort during this very challenging time for us.

We want to thank the doctors and nurses at Benefis who worked so hard to help John recover. Thank you to Dr. Grant and Janet Smith for taking Charlie out to look for our lost dog while John was still in the hospital. We are also grateful to neighbors Kurt and Velda Baltrusch who drove around with Carrie and Charlie for hours handing out “lost dog” fliers, and all of the people who have helped search for our dog.

A special thanks to Judge Elizabeth Best for handling dozens of court hearings for John while he has been at home under doctor’s orders healing up, and to John’s Judicial Assistant Lisa Perkins, who is working closely with Judge Best and John to make sure court cases keep moving forward while John is healing up.

There are literally hundreds of other wonderful, special people who showed up to help, called out in prayer, got on their knees and prayed fervently, and have also offered support and love in the days that followed. We can never thank you enough, but we will be forever grateful.

As we were finishing this letter, we received the miraculous news that one neighbor named Trey saw another neighbor, Leah Prevost, attempting to catch our dog one full week after she went missing. Working together, Carrie, Charlie, Leah, and Kurt Baltrusch were able to get our dog (now named Elsa) safely into the car. We are so thankful to Leah and Trey. Their help and compassion are another powerful reminder of what makes our community such a wonderful place to live.

With deepest love and gratitude,

John, Carrie and Charlie Parker

Reporting by Elizabeth Transue for MTN News