Tierra Capri Gobble

If she couldn't have her children, no one could

Tierra Gobble
Tierra Gobble. Police Photo

Tierra Capri Gobble was sentenced to death in Alabama in 2005 for the beating death of her four-month-old son, Phoenix "Cody" Parrish.

Phoenix Cody Parrish was born on August 8, 2004, in Plant City, Florida. Within 24 hours of being born Cody was removed from his mother's custody by the Florida Department of Children and Families. The department had previously charged Gobble with the abandonment of her first child, Jewell, and had removed her from her mother's care.

Court Order to "Stay Away" Ignored

Jewell and Cody were placed with Gobble's uncle, Edgar Parrish, who agreed to take temporary custody of the children. Parrish also agreed to keep the children away from Gobble and Cody's father, Samuel Hunter. Both Gobble and Hunter were also given a court order to stay away from the children.

Soon after gaining custody of Cody, Parrish moved to Dothan, Alabama. By the end of October 2004, both Gobble and Hunter had moved into Parrish's mobile home with him, his roommate Walter Jordan and the children.

The Death of Cody Parish

According to Gobble, in the early morning hours of December 15, 2004, she was having trouble getting Cody to go to sleep because he was "fussin." At around 1:00 a.m. Gobble went to feed him. After he finished his bottle, she put him back in his crib.

She checked on him again at around 9:00 a.m. and found him playing. Gobble went back to sleep and awoke at 11:00 a.m. When she went to check on Cody she discovered that he was not breathing.

Gobble called Jordan, who was also in the trailer that morning. Jordan went to get Parrish, who was nearby. Parrish returned to the trailer and telephoned emergency 911. When paramedics arrived, Cody was unresponsive, and they rushed him to a local hospital.

Attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead.

The Autopsy Report

The autopsy showed that Cody died as a result of blunt-force trauma to his head. His skull had been fractured. Cody had numerous other injuries, including fractured ribs, a fracture to his right arm, fractures to both wrists, multiple bruises on his face, head, neck, and chest and a tear in the inside of his mouth that was consistent with a bottle having been shoved into his mouth.

Officer Tracy McCord of the Houston County Sheriff's Department took Gobble into custody several hours after Cody was taken to the hospital.

Gobble told McCord that she was Cody's primary caretaker even though Parrish was his guardian and that she would occasionally get frustrated with him when he would not go to sleep. She admitted that she could have broken his ribs from holding him too tightly.

Gobble also said and that when she was holding Cody she leaned down in the crib to get his blanket quickly and Cody's head might have struck the side of the crib at that time.

As a result of the autopsy and remarks Gobble made to McCord, she was charged with capital murder.

The Trial

The state prosecutors accused Gobble of slamming Cody's head against his crib which resulted in his death.

Dr. Jonas R.

Salne, the emergency room doctor who treated Cody at Southeast Alabama Medical Center, testified that Cody had bruises, contusions, on his face, scalp, and chest - literally everywhere. He also testified that the injuries that Cody suffered would have been extremely painful.

Tori Jordan testified that she had known Gobble for over two years and that she had periodically babysat Jewell. She said that Gobble had told her that "if she couldn't have her children, no one could."

Gobble's Testimony

During the trial Gobble testified in her own defense and portrayed Hunter as abusive and domineering. She alluded to the fact that Hunter abused Cody.

She also testified that she was the primary caretaker for the children even though she was under a court order to not be around her children. She said that several days before his death she noticed that Cody had bruises on his body, but she did not do anything because she was scared.

Gobble further testified that she was the only person to have contact with Cody for the 10 hours immediately before his death. She did not telephone 9-1-1 when she realized he was not breathing because she did not want to get into trouble.

Cross-Examination

During her cross-examination, the State introduced a letter written by Gobble in which she wrote that she was responsible for Cody's death. In the letter Gobble writes, "It's my fault that my son died but I didn't mean for it to happen."

The jury convicted Gobble of capital murder. By a vote of 10 to 2, it was recommended that Gobble be sentenced to death. The circuit court followed the jury's recommendation and sentenced Gobble to death.

Also convicted:

Samuel David Hunter pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to prison. He was released on February 25, 2009.

Edgar Parrish pleaded guilty to aggravated child abuse and was released from prison on November 3, 2008.

Thrown Away

The body of Phoenix "Cody" Parrish was never claimed from the morgue. Gobble's father and step-mother, who testified in court that their daughter was a loving mother, never showed up to bury the child, nor did any other relative.

A group of concerned citizens in Dothan felt as if the child, who had endured abuse from the time he was born, had simply been thrown away. A collection was organized and enough money was raised to buy clothes to bury Cody in, along with a casket and a burial plot.

On December 23, 2004, Cody Parrish was buried by caring, tearful, strangers.