Bus driver in Steele case denied parole

  • Tendzin Parsons waits for his change of plea hearing to start in the Summer Steele case Friday morning in Northampton District Court. For the Recorder photo

For the Recorder
Wednesday, June 13, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — A parole board has declined to grant an early release to the Hawley school bus driver who admitted responsibility for the death of 9-year-old Plainfield girl Summer Steele.

Tendzin Parsons, 71, pleaded guilty in Northampton District Court in January to negligent motor vehicle homicide in the Oct. 28, 2016, incident. Summer, a third-grade student at Sanderson Academy in Ashfield, died after her backpack got caught in the door of the bus while she was exiting in front of her home and she was run over, according to a police investigation.

Summer’s mother, Amanda Steele, said she and her husband, Brent, along with about five other family members, attended the parole hearing last week to speak against an early release. Parsons was sentenced to one year in jail on Jan. 12.

“He finally accepted a year after really dragging us through a long 587 days. We would have fought for him to stay in jail, even if it was a day sooner,” Steele said. “It’s just absurd to us as her parents and the family and the community that he would not waive a parole hearing in hope of an early release.”

Parsons’ attorney Stephen Ferrarone confirmed Tuesday that a parole board hearing occurred earlier this month. Ferrarone said he was not at the hearing but the request was made by Parsons at the urging of the jail.

Steele said the family received a life sentence with Summer’s death.

“Every day, it’s a vicious battle to try and fight and live life without Summer,” she said. “We just don’t feel like a measly less-than-a-year is a very harsh punishment.”

Even though the parole board ruled against an early release for Parsons, Steele said it doesn’t feel like a victory.

“I feel like the parole board listened, and I feel like they thought he wasn’t very remorseful. We fought yesterday for the little time he has left to spend and I think they recognized it — she should be here. No family should endure this pain and the reason behind it,” Steele said.