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Prosecutors: man killed Vineland woman, dismembered her corpse and set it afire

The South Jersey man accused this month of dismembering and burning the corpse of a Vineland woman was charged with murder on Monday in connection with her death.

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Prosecutors say Dennis Parrish, 52, of Vineland, tortured and killed Tonya Cook, 32, then dumped her burned and mutilated body in a field in rural Cumberland County.

Authorities say they found Cook’s blood inside Parrish’s home on West Arbor Avenue, along with a hatchet, lighter fluid and mysterious “gold flakes” similar to flakes found on Cook’s body.

Parrish appeared in Superior Court in Bridgeton on Monday for a detention hearing on the earlier charges of desecrating and moving a corpse. At the hearing, First Assistant Prosecutor Harold Shapiro announced that his office had added a first-degree murder charge against Cook, along with charges of obstruction, tampering with evidence and hindering apprehension. He did not disclose a motive for the alleged crime.

As the prosecutor spoke, about a dozen of Cook’s family and friends, many dressed in white “Justice for Tonya” T-shirts, looked on.

New Jersey Sta Donald Parrish, 52, was arrested by New Jersey State Police and charged with desecrating and moving the remains of Tonya Cook, 32.

Shapiro asked that Parrish remain jailed without bail. Public Defender JoEllyn Jones did not oppose detention.

“I don’t think this is necessarily a shock,” she said in court.

Parrish, who appeared in court with a bandaged right hand, sat quietly and spoke only to answer questions. Shapiro and Jones declined to comment on Parrish’s injury.

Before the murder charge, Parrish could have been eligible for bail, but the more serious charge shifts the burden of proof to Parrish, who now will have to demonstrate why he should be freed as he awaits trial.

Superior Court Judge Joseph Chiarello ruled that Parrish will await trial in the Cumberland County Jail.

Facebook Tonya Cook, 32, identified by New Jersey State Police as the victim of a homicide whose burned and mutilated body was discovered in Lawrence Township on Monday.

A passerby discovered Cook’s remains in a field off Banks Road near Lummistown Road on July 2, authorities said. Beneath the remains, police said, they found a partially burned cardboard box with an orange sticker that they traced to Allied Van Lines. An investigation revealed that the package had been delivered to Parrish’s home,  where he lives alone, authorities said.

After obtaining a search warrant, investigators said they found blood throughout the house. DNA testing matched the blood to Cook, authorities said.

On July 12, Parrish was arrested at a motel in Absecon, where authorities said they found notes on flight information and hotels in Illinois. In the probable cause affidavit for Parrish’s arrest, a state trooper said Parrish admitted to torturing Cook. Prosecutors declined to elaborate.

The affidavit said purchase receipts and number of sightings of someone matching Parrish’s description tied him to the crime.

Cook’s family and friends declined to comment in court Monday.

In an earlier statement released by the law offices of Conrad J. Benedetto, the family thanked law enforcement officers for their work on the case and described the arrest as bittersweet.

“The Cook family, and the world, has lost a beautiful soul,” they said.

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Published: July 23, 2018 — 3:23 PM EDT