Steve WilsonVideo: Parker investifation continues
By Chloe Morrison
LAFAYETTE, Ga. -- As authorities drain a pond in their search for missing Walker County 911 dispatcher Theresa Parker, one of her husband's fellow police officers has been arrested and charged with lying to investigators.
Cpl. Harbin "Ben" Chaffin, who has been with the LaFayette Police Department more than 10 years, made "a false statement" relating to the investigation into Mrs. Parker's disappearance, officials said. He was arrested Monday around 9 p.m.
Cpl. Chaffin worked the same shift as Mrs. Parker's estranged husband, Sam Parker, who has been identified as a "person of interest" in the case.
Jerry Scott, an investigator with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said officials could not comment on the specifics of Cpl. Chaffin's false statements.
Both Mr. Chaffin and Mr. Parker were off duty on March 21, the last day Mrs. Parker was seen, LaFayette Director of Public Safety Tommy Freeman said.
Mr. Parker's sister Carolyn Wooten made a statement Friday and said her brother "has done nothing to harm (Mrs. Parker) in any way."
Mr. Freeman called the arrest of one of his officers "very unfortunate," and he said Cpl. Chaffin has been suspended from duty. In addition to felony charges, Cpl. Chaffin will face an internal investigation by the LaFayette Police Department, Mr. Freeman said.
Mrs. Parker's family members said Tuesday they were saddened and shocked by the new developments.
"All this just raises more questions than it does answers," said Mrs. Parker's brother-in-law, Jonathan Wilson.
Mr. Scott with the GBI said the arrest reflects significant progress in the investigation. The GBI is the lead agency on the case, and the FBI is assisting.
The search for Mrs. Parker has gained national attention. Authorities continued Tuesday to drain a pond off of Cordell Avenue and south of the home the Parkers shared. On Tuesday evening Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said authorities would continue to drain the pond today.
Nothing of interest had been found in the pond as of Tuesday night, officials said.
Mrs. Parker's family members are shocked that he has been identified by the GBI as a "person of interest," Sheriff Wilson said.
"They don't have a whole lot of other people they are talking to and checking out," he said. "That concerns me. It scares me how the situation is unfolding."
Mr. and Mrs. Parker were in the middle of a divorce when Mrs. Parker disappeared. According to 911 logs, police were called to the Parker residence to respond to domestic disputes at least twice, once in 2002 and another in 2004. Mrs. Parker's sister Christina Hall said the couple had a history of domestic problems.
Cody Cordell, 16, lives next door to Mr. Parker and often does yard work for him, he said. Mr. Cordell was questioned by police because he was working in Mr. Parker's yard on the day his wife last was seen.
"I've known (Mr. Parker) all my life," Mr. Cordell said.
Mr. Cordell said Mr. Parker lost his father about a month ago, and he thinks that really affected him.
"You could tell when his daddy died, he changed a little bit," he said.
Sheriff Wilson said Mrs. Parker's family members and officials still are holding out hope of finding her alive, although he said that as days pass that likelihood wanes.
"I think we always hold out hope until we know something definite," he said. "I, personally, am still holding out some hope that we can find her. ... Even people that don't know her are holding out hope that we can find her safe."
Mr. Wilson said the support and prayers from members of the community are helping the family deal with the situation. He said the owner of Susie's Sunset Cafe recognized the family when they ate there Tuesday. She gave them their meal free and said if she didn't have to run her business she would be out searching for Mrs. Parker, Mr. Wilson said.
"A lot of people give us encouragement," he said. "We try to stay positive and hope she comes back alive."
E-mail Chloe Morrison at email@example.com