Elderly Vietnam Vet Gives Home Invader a Lethal Surprise


An elderly Vietnam War veteran protected his wife when an attempted home invader forced his way into their house Monday afternoon.

Herbert Parrish, 82, and 79-year-old Lois Parrish were at home when they heard a knock at their back door around 2 p.m., WACH-TV reported.

“I opened the door and he said he was looking for his little white chihuahua and wanted to know if I saw it. And I told him, no, I haven’t,” Lois Parrish said.

When she tried to close the door, the man — later identified as 61-year-old Harold Runnels — forced his way inside.

Investigators with the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office said that Runnels used the back of a large knife to beat the elderly couple and Lois Parrish fell to the ground, according to WACH-TV.

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She injured her left index finger and Runnels used a knife to cause a laceration on her forehead.

“I felt, we’re gone. He’s going to kill us and take what he can take,” Herbert Parrish told WACH.

“He was not going to go out that door and leave us alive. That’s the way I felt. That’s why I said, ‘I’ve got to do something quick and get the edge on him. Get the advantage of him.'”

Parrish quickly grabbed a shotgun that was hanging on the wall and began to hit Runnels with the handle of it until the intruder was unconscious.

“Then I started beating him in the head with the barrel, and I know I must have hit this guy 10 times right in the face, just as hard as I could hit him,” he said.

Coronor Darryl Ables confirmed that Runnels had died at Augusta Medical Center late Monday night from his injuries.

The couple and their neighbors were shocked and shaken by the incident.

“It’s a really good neighborhood. Nothing like this usually happens,” neighbor Alyssa Hill told WRDW-TV.

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“I’m pretty sure everyone around here feels some type of way now. Everyone’s saying make sure your doors are locked, don’t go anywhere, don’t answer the door.”

Police believe the incident was a random crime.

“He was a lifelong military. Served all around the world. It’s a shame because they’re really, really nice people,” neighbor Jim Paradis said.

Hill added, “I was kind of worried because I don’t know who would come after an elderly couple. He decided to knock on the wrong door.”

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith