A 23-year-old Jacksonville man pleaded guilty Tuesday to killing a U.S. Coast Guard member just under a year ago in front of her Riverside home after she confronted him trying to break into her car, the State Attorney's Office said.
Tyree Leevon Parker made his plea to second-degree murder and armed burglary during a pretrial court hearing in the Aug. 3 death of 26-year-old Caroline Joy Schollaert, prosecutors said.
Facing up to life in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years, Parker will be sentenced the week of Oct. 4 by Circuit Court Judge Meredith Charbula, the State Attorney's Office said.
Victim was part of a crime spree
Schollaert was a member of the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron based out of Jacksonville's Cecil Airport, handling offshore interdiction of drug smugglers. A 911 dispatcher received an emergency call from her about 5:30 a.m. as she noticed someone outside her home just east of King Street, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said at the time.
"While on the phone with the communications center, the victim confronted the suspect. She held him at gunpoint and ordered him to remain until police arrived," Chief T.K. Waters said. "Unfortunately, the suspect refused to comply or surrender, and instead decided to fire a weapon several times."
At least eight other vehicles were burglarized in the area that night, Waters said. He also noted that the weapon used to kill Schollaert had been stolen from an unlocked vehicle 11 days prior.
Tips followed the death
Many neighbors provided "'critical information" about the case, allowing the Sheriff's Office to release security video showing a man identified as the suspect walking up to another car and taken prior to the shooting, Waters said. Another video showed a silver Ford Edge crossover that apparently picked up the gunman after the homicide.
Parker's last listed address on Goodwin Street was about a mile from the scene on Myra.
Detectives also found several items linked to the case during a search of the crime scene, the Sheriff's Office said. Further investigation revealed someone who told police that Parker had admitted to being involved in the shooting. Text and social media messages further confirmed Parker’s involvement, as did the discovery of a blue bag Parker had at the time of the shooting that contained identification.
Volunteer firefighter before joining Coast Guard
Schollaert also was a former member of the Indian Neck/Pine Orchard Volunteer Fire Company 9 in Connecticut, which posted condolences on its Facebook page that she "was always up for a challenge and ready to learn more."
Just days after her death, a plane carried her body back to her home state of Virginia, with people lining the procession route waving American flags as a motorcycle, police and fire truck escort led to her Powhattan community, according to the Powhattan Today newspaper.
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This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Jacksonville man pleads guilty to killing Caroline Schollaert