published Friday, October 8th, 2010

Crowds gather to grieve with Parker family

ROCK SPRING, Ga. — The group of 911 dispatchers huddled closely, talking quietly among themselves while waiting to be ushered into the dimly-lit civic center.

Several minutes later, the group was led inside and the tears began to flow as they saw the casket of their former co-worker, Theresa Parker, at the front of the room.

“We didn’t think she would ever be found,” said Tracy Paris, who worked with Parker for 15 years. “I think that was what was so shocking to us.”

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Crowds gathered to grieve with Parker’s family on Thursday evening at her first visitation at the Walker County Civic Center, almost 3 1/2 years after she went missing.

The remains of Parker, a former 911 dispatcher, were found in a cornfield near the edge of Chattooga County on Sept. 20 and identified days later. Before the remains could be released to her family, Georgia Bureau of Investigation officials examined her bones, deciding the cause of her death couldn’t be determined.

Parker’s estranged husband, Sam, who was a former police officer in LaFayette, Ga., was convicted of her murder a year ago and sentenced to life in prison.

About 300 people had visited the civic center by about 6:30 p.m., said Susan Tankersley, the marketing director for the South Crest Chapel of Lane Funeral Home.

“We are expecting a large crowd,” she said.

Family members stayed close to one another near the front of the room as a slide show of Theresa Parker and “Sissy Song” by Alan Jackson played in the background — a song that had comforted the family during the trial.

Theresa Parker took care of everyone, said her niece Amanda Hill. From baby-sitting her nephews to answering emergency calls at work, she loved people.

“[Now] we want people to see how much she was loved just by everybody,” she said.

Second visitation:

Friday from 4 to 8 p.m.

At LaFayette First Baptist Church


Saturday at noon

At LaFayette First Baptist Church

burial will follow in LaFayette City Cemetery

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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