HENDERSON, N.C. — The family of a Henderson man charged with murder in connection with the disappearance of his estranged wife says he is innocent and disputes her family's claims of past abuse between the couple.
Robert Sterling Parham Jr., 36, of 671 Club Pond Road, was arrested and charged last week with first-degree murder and first-degree arson after investigators found a body in the ruins of his estranged wife's house, which burned to the ground Thursday.
Vance County sheriff's investigators believe the body is that of Geneva Guin Brown Parham, 34, of 2569 Allison Cooper Drive, although they are awaiting official identification from the state medical examiner.
During his initial court appearance Monday morning, a judge declined a request by Robert Parham to make a statement about information reported on TV news about the relationship he had with his wife.
Outside court, family members disputed what Geneva Parham's family has said about the couple, but declined to elaborate.
"The other side of this story has not been told, and everybody don't need to try and convict him before they hear all the facts," Robert Parham's sister, Deborah Boyd, said. "And everything that's been saying about him is a lie, and we are mostly concerned about our brother, and we want to do what is right for him and his kids."
Geneva Parham's family, last week, said the couple had been having marital problems for the past few years and that she was in the process of getting a restraining order against him.
"He was very controlling, and we were in the processes of trying to get her out of it," her stepfather, Franklin Dillard said. "Basically, he just kept her under his thumb by the threat of taking her children away from her."
Dillard said Robert Parham frequently showed up at the home and had repeatedly threatened to take their three children and kill her.
Vance County Sheriff Peter White said the Parhams had been fighting last Thursday morning before her house caught fire and that Robert Parham had a wound on his arm that was relevant to the case.
He declined, however, to disclose further details.
"We are sure, in our hearts, that they have got the right man, and I trust in the courts that justice will be served," Geneva Parham's brother, Jeremy Brown, said.