By Chloe Morrison
LaFAYETTE, Ga. -- Authorities began draining a large pond Monday afternoon in an effort to uncover clues in the search for missing Walker County 911 dispatcher Theresa Parker.
"The pond is in the general area of (Mr. Parker's home),"Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said. "We felt like it was one we needed to search."
Sheriff Wilson said Sam Parker, Mrs. Parker's estranged husband and a LaFayette police officer, has been known to fish in the pond, which is off Cordell Avenue. The pond was searched Saturday by divers but the sheriff said darkness and brush in the water made the search difficult.
A Georgia Bureau of Investigation official said Sgt. Parker is a "person of interest" in the investigation of the disappearance of his wife, who was last seen on March 21. The couple was in the process of a divorce when Mrs. Parker disappeared.
As authorities drained the pond, Mrs. Parker's brother-in-law Jonathan Wilson and sister Hilda Wilson arrived to see if any new information was available.
The family is distraught and the situation becomes harder to deal with as each day passes, especially with the possibility that someone they thought of as family may be involved, Mr. Wilson said.
"We are not one to point fingers and jump on the bandwagon," he said. "But (Sam) not being ruled out concerns us."
Sgt. Parker's sister Carolyn Wooten gave a statement on Friday saying that Sgt. Parker had "done nothing to harm" Mrs. Parker.
The pond is deep and will take a couple of days to drain, Sheriff Wilson said. Authorities will use a pump to pull water from the manmade pond and spill it over a small dam and into a stream bed. In the meantime, officials are conducting interviews and continuing the investigation, the sheriff said.
Officials have taken DNA from Mrs. Parker's mother, Sheriff Wilson said.
"DNA is a very valuable tool to law enforcement," he said. "It would not be unusual for investigators to collect samples from known family members in the event we needed that for the investigation."
Sgt. Parker was expected to be back at work this week, however his boss, LaFayette Director of Public Safety Tommy Freeman, said Sgt. Parker has extended his leave until sometime next week.
"It is really none of my business where (Sgt. Parker is)," Mr. Freeman said. "He can be wherever he wants to be. This is his wife, and he will know best when it is time to come back to work."
Mr. Freeman said he has not spoken directly with Sgt. Parker but has communicated with his sister, Mrs. Wooten.
As the search drags on, officials are growing weary, Sheriff Wilson said. Authorities are working 18-hour days and won't rest until they are successful, they said.
"All the investigators here and (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) agents, we are very tired, very fatigued," Sheriff Wilson said. "We tried to take part of Sunday off, but it has been a very grueling eight days."
Mrs. Parker's sister Christina Hall said there was a history of domestic violence in the Parker marriage.
According to Walker County 911 logs police responded to domestic disturbance calls at the Parker residence on at least two occasions, once in 2002 and once in 2004.
Jim Fickey, a deacon with the Corinth Baptist Church, the meeting point for Saturday's search, said his children grew up with Mrs. Parker. He said she was well-liked and it is hard to believe something like this is happening in Walker County.
Family members said Friday they can't believe what is happening either.
"I just hope she is alive," Mrs. Hall said. "I hope (Sam) could not (kill her). I hope she is tied up somewhere. I hope she is in the woods somewhere. She is my best friend."
E-mail Chloe Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org