Carolyn Wooten, sister of Sam Parker
Christina Hall, sister of Theresa Parker
By Chloe Morrison
LaFAYETTE, Ga. -- As the intensive search continues for missing Walker County 911 dispatcher Theresa Parker, family and friends have been holding vigils in her honor and authorities are pressing on with their investigation.
Mrs. Parker, 41, has been missing since March 21. Her family reported her missing three days after she was last seen. Mrs. Parker's car was found at her home.
Mrs. Parker is the wife of LaFayette police Sgt. Sam Parker. The couple were in the middle of a divorce when Mrs. Parker disappeared.
On Friday, both Mrs. Parker's SUV and her husband's LaFayette Police Department patrol car were parked in an impound lot at the Walker County Jail, with yellow police tape around them to keep people away.
Officials and volunteers have been searching on land and by air for Mrs. Parker. Walker County's Cave and Rescue Team with cadaver dogs, deputies and rescue personnel first concentrated search efforts near Mrs. Parker's residence at Cordell and Coffman Springs roads here.
Today a search was scheduled near the Walker-Chattooga county line between Taylor's Ridge and Pigeon Mountain, Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said.
"A lot of people have used the analogy that it is like a needle in a haystack," Sheriff Wilson said about the large search area, some of it rugged terrain.
"A lot of different things we've done in the investigation make us believe that she may be in that area (north of Summerville and south of LaFayette)," he said, but he declined to give specifics.
Authorities also have searched Mr. Parker's home and searched and impounded his police car and Mrs. Parker's car. Sheriff Wilson called it a routine search and has said it is still a missing person case. But the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is the lead agency in the case and FBI agents are also assisting.
Police have described Mr. Parker at times as "being cooperative" and "distraught" over his estranged wife's disappearance.
The day after Mrs. Parker disappeared, Mr. Parker said he was unaware she was missing and had gone fishing with Attorney William Slack, Sheriff Wilson said.
Walker County Coordinator David Ashburn said authorities have searched ponds and wells, but not the water where Mr. Parker went fishing. Sheriff Wilson said he doesn't know the exact location of Mr. Parker's fishing trip.
"We don't really think that has anything to do with this," Sheriff Wilson said.
Authorities are not dragging any bodies of water, officials said.
"We are looking for a non-responsive body or evidence of a crime," Sheriff Wilson said.
Mr. Ashburn said there has been an outpouring of support from those wanting to help with the search.
"I've gotten calls from emergency service personnel from all over the state of Georgia offering assistance and everything else," he said.
Authorities have received numerous tips, even a couple from psychics, said Theresa's brother-in-law Jonathan Wilson, who has served as a family spokesman. They have also investigated the couple's past. According to Walker County 911 logs, police responded to domestic disturbance calls at the Parker residence on at least two occasions, in 2002 and in 2004.
Christina Hall, Mrs. Parker's sister, talked Friday about the domestic incidents. She said Mrs. Parker told her that there had been a history of domestic violence between the Parkers.
"She was pretty private about a lot of that until probably about the past couple of years," Mrs. Hall said. "(I know of an) incident last year when she told me she was really afraid. She looked me in the eyes and told me she was afraid .... Maybe I shouldn't be saying that, but it is just the truth, and that is when she filed for divorce."
Mr. Parker's sister, Carolyn Wooten, spoke publicly Friday on behalf of her brother.
She said he is distraught and his family prays for Mrs. Parker's safe return. Mrs. Wooten said her brother has willingly cooperated in the investigation.
"He has allowed his home, his car, his wife's car to be chemically tested for any evidence of blood or bodily fluids," she said. "His home and property have been searched by specially trained dogs and infrared devices. His bank records and phone records have been thoroughly examined. His own body has been physically and carefully examined and photographed by the GBI agents."
Mrs. Wooten said her brother, Mr. Parker, has done nothing to harm Mrs. Parker.
Mrs. Hall, the missing woman's sister, said she wonders why Mr. Parker isn't helping in the search.
"Why hasn't he been out there searching with us," she said. "I think he probably is afraid that people will suspect him, but I kind of feel like when you love somebody you don't care. You are going to get out there and say, 'I really don't care what you guys think, I want to help, I want to find her.' "
LaFayette Director of Public Safety Tommy Freeman, Mr. Parker's boss, said Sgt. Parker is on vacation until Monday, although the leave could be extended, he said.
Meanwhile, the family has posted flyers around the area to aid in the search. Family members said they are pleased with the progress of the investigation and have faith that officials will do everything they can to find Mrs. Parker.
Family and friends held vigils Thursday and Friday for Mrs. Parker. Emergency workers were in attendance on both occasions and many said they thought of the co-worker as family.
"Bring her home, bring our sister home," said friend and fellow emergency worker Dallas Patrick, as he prayed at Thursday night's vigil.
Gathered under a pavilion near the Walker County 911 Center, family and friends shared stories and cried together as they comforted each other, and as they honored Mrs. Parker, her family and everyone involved in the search and investigation.
Jonathan Wilson said the outpouring from the community has given the family some comfort.
"It is good to have this kind of support," he said. "It almost give us a little bit of peace in a bad situation."
Even with the support, he said it is hard to sleep at night.
On Friday friends and family gathered on the steps of the Walker County Courthouse, many wearing yellow ribbons. Sheriff Wilson, Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell and state Rep. Jay Neal, R-LaFayette, also attended.
The family said their main focus remains finding Mrs. Parker.
"We miss her," Mrs. Hall said. "We want to do whatever it takes to bring her home."
E-mail Chloe Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org