ATHENS, Ga. -- A man found murdered in Oglethorpe County this week was losing the patience of a group of investors who expected him to use their money to start a poultry business, according to a lawsuit filed in Walton County Superior Court shortly after he went missing.
The investors wanted their money back after they learned Charles Stephen Parker had spent some of the $500,000 he was supposed to have kept in an escrow account until he could secure a loan for a proposed poultry business, according to the lawsuit filed Feb. 7.
The investors — five people from Lithonia — also wanted to terminate a verbal agreement with Parker for the business venture because a month had passed, and he hadn’t obtained the $3.2 million loan he promised, according to the lawsuit.
The bulk of the money, or $475,000, was put up by a woman who began banking with Parker when he was with Georgia United Credit Union in Decatur, according to the lawsuit.
She and fellow investors tried to get their money back in December, but were unable to contact him, according to the lawsuit.
One month later, on Jan. 16, Parker’s wife reported him missing after he didn’t return home from a trip to Madison County, where Parker and a business partner from Athens went to inspect property for the poultry business, authorities said.
The same night Parker went missing, someone found his wallet in Athens, and the next afternoon a different person found a gym bag with Parker’s clothes, authorities said. Two days later, an Athens police officer found Parker’s car in the same general area where his other belongings were located.
Authorities also tracked Parker’s cellphone to the Smithonia community in Oglethorpe County, but they couldn’t locate the phone. Some men found Parker’s body Monday in a well in Oglethorpe County’s Sandy Cross community. An autopsy determined that he’d been shot more than once not long after he went missing and dumped in the well, authorities said.
The lawsuit was filed 23 days after Parker went missing, and 14 days before his body was found.
The complaint asks a Walton County judge to order Bank of America to return investors’ money and claims that the Athens business partner — Victor Blockum, who is listed as chief financial officer of Parker Poultry Farms — tried to withdraw the investors’ money two days after Parker disappeared.
Parker had introduced Blockum to the investors as “a person with expertise in poultry farm management,” according to the lawsuit, but “failed to disclose that (Blockum) would be added as a signatory to the account in which (the investors’) funds were held.”
In a response to the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Walton County Superior Court, Blockum’s attorney says his client tried to withdraw money from the bank so he could return it to the investors.
“When it was learned that Parker was reported missing, (Blockum) attempted to withdraw funds from the Bank of America for the purpose of restoring money to the plaintiffs,” Blockum’s attorney wrote.
The attorney, James Smith of Athens, also claims that on Feb. 6 — one day before the investors filed suit — Blockum repaid them with a check made out for $489,603.
“A check was placed in the hands of the plaintiff for all of the money in the Bank of America account,” the attorney states in the response to the lawsuit.
The bank did not honor the check, according to court filings, which didn’t explain why.
Blockum reportedly was the last person to see Parker alive the afternoon of Jan. 15 when, he told authorities, Parker dropped him off after inspecting property in Madison County.
Authorities have spoken with Blockum and several other witnesses in connection with Parker’s disappearance, according an official with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
The official would not say if investigators are focusing on the planned poultry business venture as a possible motive for Parker’s slaying.
“We are looking at any and all possibilities, and any and all leads,” said Jim Fullington, special agent in charge of the GBI’s Athens regional office.