Whatever happened to Allen Andrew Parsons? It’s a question that’s lingered for 40 years since his disappearance around 1980.
But first — who was this mysterious man? Parsons graduated with top honors from Fort Lauderdale High School. He ran a thriving mail-order gay pornography business. Later he ran a drug abuse commission. And his last known profession was publishing a chain of gay publications.
Was he a victim of a selective police enforcement? Was he a criminal mastermind?
Parsons graduated from high school in 1955. He was in the art club, debate club, AV club, swimming team, and served as class president. People in his class envied him. He was a well-groomed guy that all the girls wanted.
Parsons however had other interests.
He spent the years following his high school graduation attending Stetson University in DeLand on a debate scholarship. He even got a gig writing about his experiences at Stetson in a column in the Fort Lauderdale News. He became the first teenager to ever address the Florida State Legislature in Tallahassee during his time at Stetson.
For reasons unknown he left Stetson after his first year and returned home to his mother’s house on NE 1st Street in Fort Lauderdale. He got a job with the Broward Sheriff’s office in the juvenile division and laid low for a few years. After about a year the Sheriff’s office fired him when they discovered he had lied about previous experience.
In the very early morning hours of Nov. 10, 1960, the Sheriff’s office with the assistance of the Pompano Beach Police Department raided Parsons’ home near downtown Fort Lauderdale. They found loads of male pornography, which was illegal to possess at the time.
Investigators learned much of the pornography was created by Parsons. They also found he had a subscription list of over 5,000 men in the Southeast U.S. whom he’d mail copies of the photos to. This was proven when the U.S. Postal Service froze mail in progress from Parsons’ address and found gay porn.
Law enforcement was tipped off a few days prior about Parsons when a 15-year-old boy who was hitchhiking was picked up by police in Pompano Beach and told them Parsons had shown him obscene material and had taken nude photos of himself. Parsons pleaded guilty and admitted he had made a thriving business throughout five different states selling the pornographic photos.
Because of his academic status, achievement, and obvious homosexuality his case made the local news.
Since individuals in Dade and Duval counties had received images from Parsons, those counties charged him as well. He was eventually sent to prison where he would serve a year followed by five years of probation.
But that was far from the end of Parsons’ story.
A few years after his release in 1963 it was revealed Parsons never registered for the federal draft, a requirement at the time for all men in the U.S. to do when they turn 18. His probation was extended another five years and he was required to register.
In 1965 he was arrested when two boys, ages 16 and 17, reported to police that Parsons made unwanted advances to them. The Miami News and the Fort Lauderdale News reported that the former honors student was once again caught soliciting “young boys” for sexual acts and photography. Despite the media sensation around Parsons’ arrest he was found not guilty.
This time Parsons disappeared.
In the early 1970s Dr. Richard Thompson arrived in Titusville. He claimed to have gained experience after practicing in Washington D.C. and graduating from Georgetown University. He did not practice psychology locally. He claimed a lot of his wealth came from an inheritance.
Thompson quickly became the leader of the Titusville Drug Abuse Commission.
He also became very active in local politics and gained himself a spot on the board of the local democratic committee. He boasted about his wealth and used it to befriend many youthful political activists while promising his association with them would launch them into the political spotlight.
Dr. Thompson was routinely used as a source for discussion on drugs and politics by the area's local newspaper, Florida Today. He gained even more notoriety when he led a local Brevard County effort to get New York Mayor John Lindsay's name on the democratic ticket for the 1972 presidential election.
But on the morning of August 18, 1972 all of that came crashing to a halt when Titusville Police Chief Clarence Kirkland announced Thompson had been arrested at the court house that morning under suspicion that he had registered to vote under a false name and failed to report that he was a convicted felon. Kirkland went on to explain that Thompson's fingerprints were an identical match to a young man with a long criminal rap sheet in Fort Lauderdale a decade before — Allen Andrew Parsons.
Despite the very obvious likeness and behavioral tactics Thompson shared with Parsons, he called the arrest nothing more than a "smear tactic to run him out of town" due to his political activism.
In talking to local media he felt he was arrested to stop a local political rally he was planning with a political youth group he had set up. Thompson refused to talk directly about the charges pending against him and would not answer whether he was, in fact, Parsons.
Dr. Thompson missed his first court date because he was in Miami “on business.” He finally appeared in court in Brevard County on Aug. 29 and pleaded not guilty for falsifying his voter registration. He said he was not Parsons and was not using a pseudonym to hide his criminal past. If convicted he faced five years in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.
It was front page news on the morning of Sept. 21, 1972 when it was announced that the Titusville Police decided to drop their charges against Thompson. The police agency claimed they felt they did not have a strong case.
In 1972 it was technically not illegal to register to vote under a false name, but only to cast a ballot under the false name. Since there was no evidence Thompson ever voted under this name the case would not have held much water in court.
Kirkland resigned over the controversy and Thompson never had to appear in court to disprove he was not Parsons. Florida Today even did a lengthy opinion piece detailing the case and why Thompson's troubles didn't end there.
Thompson laid low and played the victim card for a few months, telling local reporters that the claims against him had bruised his reputation and that it would take years for him to rebuild his repertoire. Nonetheless Thompson vowed to remain active and local.
Thompson remained mostly out of the spotlight in 1973 but the mysteriousness of his identity and wealth didn't go unnoticed by the IRS. In December of that year the IRS revealed that they had identified where Thompson's money was coming from. He had been secretly operating a large chain of gay publications under the brand Richard Models Exclusive (or RMX).
The publications had a circulation in the tens of thousands and primarily featured young boys ages 15-22. The photo books with titles such as "From Richard with Love" or "200 boys”) were found to be widely available all over the country. One such book even featured a model who called himself John Schriver, who claimed to have been from the Palm Beach area and a part of the Kennedy family.
He would go on to appear in several publications and gained some notoriety but his claim was later widely debunked in a 1972 issue of The Advocate. In fact, almost all the other models were from South Florida and photography was mostly done in rural outdoor scenes or deserted beach scenes in Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. The revelation shed light as to why Thompson took so many business trips to South Florida.
The books were copyrighted by the Overstock Book Company, a New York-based company responsible for supplying similar print material via many different brands all over the country. It was one of the largest underground gay pornography operations of its kind in the country at the time and the age of the models came under great scrutiny.
This case paved the way for eventual regulation of what should be considered underage and what is not. A police raid in Thompson’s Titusville house found that he had loads of pornographic materials and a very clever business plan with dealings in Miami, New York, and Puerto Rico.
Thompson was located and in 1975 pleaded guilty to tax evasion, having never filed taxes for any of his income in the 1970s. Furthermore his identity was still in question when Georgetown University claimed to have no record of his attendance. He was sentenced to probation with the condition that he not have any dealings with illegal pornographic material again.
Following an arrest for lewd and lascivious activity against a 15-year-old boy in later 1975, police raided his house again, finding more pornographic magazines, photos, and personal diaries. During his court proceedings Titusville Councilman Charlie Davis came to Thompson's defense stating that he should be given psychiatric treatment rather than a prison sentence.
He felt Thompson was a victim of constant selective enforcement. The court ignored Davis' request and Thompson, whom the court was now calling Allen Parsons, was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison followed by 2 more months in a Brevard County prison.
Parsons spent the 10 months at the El Reno, Oklahoma prison facility. He was released on June 16, 1978 and due back in Brevard County, but Parsons disappeared. Titusville Police Chief Ron Clark spent a year trying to seek out Parsons to no avail.
In the last article ever to be written about Parsons in September 1980, Clark stated he didn't care where Parsons was as long as he stayed away from Brevard County. He had no doubt Parsons would surface again since he felt you couldn't cover up the type of activity Parsons was involved in for very long.
Turns out he was wrong.
Parsons has evaded police for the last 41 years. It is thought Parsons returned to South Florida and may have used as many as 160 different aliases since. If he is still out there, he is an 81-year-old criminal mastermind with a knack for covering his whereabouts very well. It’s worth noting that the statute of limitations on his case has run out.
This is a part of our LGBT History Month special package. Check out sfgn.com/historymonth2020 daily for new stories.