Crime & Courts

FITSFiles True Crime Podcast: Rose Petal Murder, Episode 2

Who is Zach Hughes?

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This morning, our news outlet dropped the second episode of FITSFiles, our brand new true crime (and corruption) podcast. FITSFiles aims to tell the stories beyond the headlines – uncovering previously unknown facts, gleaning undeciphered meaning and demanding unprecedented accountability over the individuals and institutions who are parties to the stories we cover.

Including ourselves …

Eschewing agendas, egos and self-interest … we let the stories guide us, telling them as best we can based on the best available evidence.

Like last week’s inaugural episode, our second installment focuses on the gruesome Rose Petal Murder – which took place on the morning of October 13, 2021 in a suburban neighborhood in Greer, South Carolina.

As we have previously reported, details of this crime were “disturbingly ritualistic.” After inflicting nearly three dozen stab wounds to the head and neck area of the victim – 41-year-old Christina Parcell – the killer allegedly sprinkled rose petals around her body after dragging and posing her in the front living room of a 2,100-square foot home owned by her sister, Tina Parcell.

In the immediate aftermath of this savage slaying, many believed Christina Parcell’s fiancee, Bradly Post – who discovered her body – would be arrested. And he was.

Just not for murder …

Instead, Post was charged with six counts of sexual exploitation of a minor (five in the first degree), one count of criminal sexual content with a minor and one count of buggery (you can read more about that last charge here).

(Click to View)

(Jenn Wood)

According to investigators and prosecutors, Parcell was murdered thirty-year-old Zachary David Hughes of Morro Bay, California – someone who had no known connection to the victim.

A California native and graduate of the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City, Hughes is a classically trained concert pianist who studied and performed piano sonatas and concertos written by famed composer Ludwig van Beethoven. We published this expansive piece on Hughes’ background in late March – but this episode goes even deeper into his story.

In addition to doing a deep dive on Hughes, this episode seeks to explain his relationship with self-styled music producer John Mello. An elusive figure whom we will be covering in greater detail in upcoming episodes, Mello is Parcell’s ex-boyfriend and the father of her young daughter. At the time of Parcell’s murder, he was in the middle of a caustic custody dispute with Parcell – one which is still ongoing.

Mello and Hughes were “very close friends,” according to South Carolina prosecutors, and routinely used the encrypted smartphone application WhatsApp to communicate with each other. In fact, Mello and Hughes are said to have exchanged at least 1,769 encrypted WhatsApp messages.

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In one conversation via WhatsApp on April 17, 2021, Mello indicated he had obtained Christina’s private number and instructed Hughes to use it to “harass the shit out of her.”

Authorities also uncovered numerous conversations between Mello and Zach Hughes on the day of Christina Parcell’s murder. For example, there is a conversation in which Mello asked Hughes “how did the music research go?”

“Good,” Hughes responded. “I’ll tell you over the phone.”

To what were the two referring? Were they speaking in code?

We dig into the very latest on efforts to unlock Zach Hughes’ phone – and recover the encrypted messages contained therein – in this episode. And as mentioned, stay tuned for much more on Mello.

FITSFiles is written, produced and hosted by our team of dedicated journalists: Research director Jenn Wood, special projects director Dylan Nolan, researcher Callie Lyons and myself, founding editor Will Folks. New episodes drop every Wednesday morning. Be sure to subscribe to FITSFiles on your podcast platform of choice (including AppleSpotifyGoogle and others) so you won’t miss a single installment.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.

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