Source of Article: http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2009Feb13/0,4670,SalmonellaOutbreakExecutive,00.html
February 13, 2009
Today, the man forever associated with the deadly salmonella outbreak is more the recluse, staying close to the house he bought here more than 14 years ago, when it was still surrounded by pastures. Parnell is telling those same friends and clients not to call, not to visit, not to do anything that might link them to the firestorm he's facing.
In his hometown in
Jekyll-and-Hyde tale of Stewart Parnell, 54, and his contaminated peanuts
carries important consequences for food protection reforms already being
Those close to Parnell said he's not a monster, just a person who has made mistakes.
condemned him yet," said Eddie Marks, who runs a
For nearly five minutes before being dismissed, Parnell listened Wednesday as U.S. lawmakers described him as greedy and uncaring, indifferent to the impact his beleaguered business has had on the lives of so many. He repeatedly invoked his constitutional right not to say anything that could be used against him.
Parnell isn't talking
now, not to reporters or congressmen who pelted him with questions about
His appearance before a House subcommittee was the first opportunity to put a face to the latest food contamination scare: a round, slightly swollen, seemingly sleepless face of a man fidgeting in his seat, or tapping his fingers on the desk before him, or folding his arms awkwardly, or jerking his head to the side as if he heard his name called.
"I'm assuming he will talk when the time is right," said his brother Michael of Midlothian, Va.
This is not the man
Charles Pond knew when he sold him his
"He's been slow to pay on some of it, but other than that, we've never seen any problems like this," Pond said.
Parnell has had a long, successful run in the peanut business, starting with his father and two younger brothers in 1977. They took a struggling, $50,000-a-year peanut roasting operation and turned it into a $30 million business before selling in 1995. Parnell once boasted about the company on his Web site.
working as a consultant to the business after the family sold it, and in 2000
he left to buy his own peanut plant again in
Pond said Royster supplied the money, Parnell supplied the experience for the Georgia and Virginia peanut businesses.
Royster did not returned repeated calls for comment over several days made to his office and home by The Associated Press.
Friends of Parnell said there is more to him than what the public has seen. He is a father to two grown daughters, a pilot of more than 30 years, an avid hunter, a reliable contributor to local charities, a man who has spent more than three decades in his business.
"He's an amazing person," said Nancy Weaver, a neighbor of Parnell's. Weaver called a reporter to defend Parnell, to say he's just being maligned and misunderstood. But she, like others close to him, declined to discuss him further when a reporter knocked on the door.
The public record portrays a different man, someone who repeatedly has faced problems in his business years before it became ground zero for the salmonella outbreak.
In 1990, federal
inspectors found toxic mold in products produced in Parnell's peanut company
In 2001, inspectors
found peanuts may have been exposed to pesticides, and in 2006 Parnell's
company hired a consultant to help resolve a salmonella problem at the
Parnell is not a
fly-by-night operator, said Eddie Marks, the
"I think you can look at his customer base and determine that he's been well-recognized," Marks said.
Michael Smith, purchasing manager for Stapleton-Spence Packing Co. in Gridley, Calif., has bought peanuts from Parnell for years and describes him as "one of the nicest guys in the world."
Smith said he recently sent Parnell an e-mail expressing support, and in less than five minutes Parnell responded.
"He said, 'I have one thing for you: Take care of yourself, your family and your business."
Blackledge reported from
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