LaFAYETTE, Ga. — Police still don’t have the body of missing 911 dispatcher Theresa Parker, but they have jailed her estranged husband, former LaFayette police Sgt. Sam Parker, and charged him with murder.
Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said nothing has changed in the last few days to lead to the arrest.
“It is just that now is the right time,” he said.
Sam Parker, 52, and his wife, 42, were in the process of divorcing when she disappeared March 21. He was named a “person of interest” a couple weeks after her disappearance.
“It is still our No. 1 priority to find Theresa,” said Sheriff Wilson, who helped organize numerous fruitless searches. “We will not rest until we find Theresa.”
Hilda Wilson, the missing woman’s sister, said her life was changed forever by Theresa Parker’s disappearance and that her brother-in-law’s arrest was “bitter sweet.”
“It is kind of the beginning of the end,” she said. “It is something we’ve waited for — for some justice for Theresa.”
In an interview with the Times Free Press in December, Mr. Parker said he did not harm his wife and claimed he was being unfairly targeted by law enforcement.
Sheriff Wilson and other law enforcement officials would not elaborate on why Mr. Parker was arrested now. They would not say if there was any new evidence in the case.
The arrest warrant charged that Mr. Parker, “with malice aforethought,” killed his wife sometime between midnight March 21 and midnight March 22.
The sheriff cited Georgia case law that deals with trying someone for murder without the body of a victim.
“It’s been done before in Georgia,” he said.
Authorities took Mr. Parker to the Floyd County Jail in Rome, Ga., and by Monday night there still had been no request for a bond hearing, no word when he might appear in court and they were not sure if he had a lawyer.
Sheriff Wilson said he is not sure what the next step in the case will be, but Mr. Parker’s initial magistrate hearing likely will take place in Floyd County.
LaFayette buzzed with the news of Mr. Parker’s arrest Monday.
Like many who knew and liked both Theresa and Sam Parker, Monty Morrison was torn.
“The community has held its breath for almost a year now,” he said, adding that residents hope for justice and closure.
“I hope it turns out that (Sam) is as innocent as he says he is,” said Mr. Morrison, a lifelong LaFayette resident.
Mr. Parker’s sister, Carolyn Wooten, has acted as her brother’s spokeswoman and has defended him and stood behind his claims of innocence. She said she had “no comment at all” Monday.
Sheriff’s officers assisted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the FBI went to Mr. Parker’s home south of LaFayette at 9:55 a.m. Monday. They arrested him with “no problem at all,” Sheriff Wilson said.
“He went to Floyd County simply because he was a law enforcement officer who made arrests in this town,” Sheriff Wilson said. “Out of an abundance of caution, he was taken to Floyd County.”
Sheriff’s officials had been to the Parkers’ house a dozen times — conducting searches, draining a pond and sniffing for clues with a search dog.
Mr. Parker’s friend and co-worker, Harbin “Ben” Chaffin, has been arrested twice since Mrs. Parker’s disappearance. He’s facing felony charges of violation of oath by public officer, tampering with evidence, computer invasion of privacy and lying to investigators.
Sheriff Wilson said Monday that nothing had changed regarding Mr. Chaffin’s status. It is unclear when he will be tried on the charges.
The district attorney and his staff also knew Mr. Parker. Lookout Mountain Circuit prosecutor Herbert “Buzz “ Franklin removed himself from the case, citing conflicts.
Rome Judicial Circuit District Attorney Leigh Patterson has been appointed to the case. Ms. Patterson said Monday that she had no comment on the case.
Monday’s news brought fresh tears to Christina Hall, Mrs. Parker’s other sister. She said it was difficult, after Mr. Parker had been part of her family for 17 years, to know he is charged with killing her sister.
“(Theresa) is on my mind every day,” Mrs. Hall said. “If anything, I miss her more and more every day.”
Video: Missing Walker County dispatcher's husband arrestedWalker Co. Sheriff Steve Wilson announced Monday that authorities have arrested former LaFayette police officer Samuel L. Parker, 52, on a charge of murder. His wife, Theresa Parker, a 42-year-old 911 emergency dispatcher, was last seen March 21 as she left her sister’s house headed for her own home. She and Mr. Parker were in the process of a divorce, family members have said.