Tommy FreemanVideo: Parker investigation continues
By Chloe Morrison
No new evidence was found after officials drained a pond in search of missing 911 dispatcher Theresa Parker, Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said Wednesday.
Mrs. Parker has been missing for 15 days, despite intensive searching by investigators and volunteers.
Meanwhile, a bond hearing was set for today for Cpl. Harbin "Ben" Chaffin, a LaFayette Police Department official and co-worker of Mrs. Parker's estranged husband. Cpl. Chaffin was arrested on a felony charge of making a "false statement" relating to the investigation into Mrs. Parker's disappearance.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation officials said that Cpl. Chaffin worked the same shift as Sam Parker, whom Mrs. Parker was in process of divorcing and who has been identified as a "person of interest" in the investigation of her disappearance.
Officials declined to give specific details of the charge against Cpl. Chaffin, who was arrested Monday night and booked at 10 p.m. in the Whitfield County Jail, officials said. According to state law, the felony charge carries the penalty of one to five years in prison and a fine of $1,000 to $5,000.
"It is disappointing that I have an officer that is involved in this kind of conduct, but there is nothing I could have done to prevent it," LaFayette Director of Public Safety Tommy Freeman said.
Mr. Freeman had been on the job less than a week when Mrs. Parker disappeared. He said he is planning an internal administrative investigation into the charge against Cpl. Chaffin, but anything found cannot be used for criminal prosecution. Mr. Freeman said he will use any information found to determine if Cpl. Chaffin will be disciplined internally.
Both Mr. Parker and Mr. Chaffin were off duty on March 21, the last day Mrs. Parker was seen, officials said. Mr. Parker's sister Carolyn Wooten has said that her brother had nothing to do with Mrs. Parker's disappearance.
Officials began Monday draining the pond, which was about 25 feet deep and located across the street and about a half mile south of the home the Parkers once shared. Officials said Mr. Parker has been known to fish in the pond, and dogs picked up a scent near the pond more than once. Before it was drained, divers searched the pond, but dark conditions halted that search.
Sheriff Wilson said that by late Tuesday the water level was low enough for investigators to continue searching the pond.
"We got it low and then put on waders and physically waded the pond," he said.
The pond is on Ross Robinson's property, and Mr. Robinson said he was not bothered by it being drained. He said he was more concerned divers would get hurt searching in the dark.
Family members said the lack of new evidence leaves mixed emotions.
"It is just a disappointment and a relief," said Jonathan Wilson, Mrs. Parker's brother-in-law. "Now that there is nothing in there, we still have hope that she could be alive, but it is that much further down the road that there will be a conclusion."
Mr. Wilson, who is no relation to Sheriff Wilson, described Mrs. Parker as reserved and loving. She was fond of going to the beach and loved her pets and her family, he said.
"She was very loving to her nieces and nephews," he said. "That was kind of her whole world."
Mr. Wilson said Mr. Parker is a typical police officer.
"He loved guns, had ammo magazines," he said. "He liked outdoor stuff, liked to fish and camp."
Mr. Wilson said it is hard to eat and sleep. He hasn't weighed himself, but he soon will have to cut another notch in his belt, he said.
While some family members must keep working to support their families, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson are here from Florida and dedicated to keeping the case alive, he said.
"If the news and interest goes away, then our sister is not going to be found," Mr. Wilson said.
Mrs. Wilson asked that everyone in the Trion, Ga., area, which is south of LaFayette, Ga., be on the lookout for anything suspicious. They also hope that anyone who may have seen Mrs. Parker's car late in the day on March 21 will come forward. Family members said Mrs. Parker didn't wear much jewelry but could have been wearing a ring or two and small earrings.
The search for Mrs. Parker has garnered national attention, and yellow and blue ribbons line the streets of LaFayette in her honor as friends and family wait for resolution. Blue is her favorite color, community members said.
Mr. Wilson said encouragement from everyone, including strangers, has helped keep the family strong. His main priority is keeping the investigation going, he said.
"We want people to make sure they contact their favorite media and keep the story big," he said.
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