published Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Family relieved convicted killer Sam Parker denied new trial

  • photo
    Sam Parker enters Judge Jon "Bo" Wood's courtroom on a motion for a new trial hearing in Walker County Superior Court in LaFayette, Ga., on April 12. Parker on Monday was denied a new trial in the death of his dispatcher wife, Theresa, in 2009. Her body was found in 2010.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
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Since Theresa Parker's body was found and buried in a LaFayette, Ga., cemetery in 2010, her relatives hoped they wouldn't have to relive how she died and face her killer again.

But when ex-LaFayette police officer Sam Parker went before a judge and asked for a new trial more than a week ago, Jon Wilson and his wife, Hilda, were nervous.

"We just knew there wasn't a whole lot of chance," said Wilson, Theresa's brother-in-law. "[But] there's a chance for everything."

When he learned Monday morning that a judge had denied Sam Parker's motion for a new trial, he hurried to tell his wife.

"That's great news," he shouted.

Sam Parker's attorney, David Dunn, has said he will appeal the ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Theresa Parker, a Walker County 911 dispatcher, went missing in April 2007. When police said they had the evidence to prove she was dead and hidden well, her estranged husband, Sam, was charged with her murder. He was convicted before her body was found -- a rare victory in Georgia, prosecutors said.

But his attorney argued Sam Parker was denied a fair trial.

In court on April 12, Dunn argued to Walker County Superior Court Judge Jon "Bo" Wood that, when Theresa Parker's bones were found in 2010, her condition contradicted prosecutors' witnesses during the trial.

Witnesses testified that Sam Parker told them he had shot his wife in the head. But her skull was found intact and didn't show any signs of being shot, Dunn said.

But Floyd County District Attorney Leigh Patterson -- who led the prosecution in Sam Parker's original trial -- argued that the state never said it knew how Sam Parker killed his wife and, in court, prosecutors told the jury she could have been shot or strangled.

"We still don't know how she died," Patterson said. "It's almost like the defendant is asking for a new trial because he was successful in hiding the body."

Theresa Parker's family avoided the motion for a new trial hearing. But Jon Wilson said when he read testimony of how his sister-in-law could have died based on the condition of her jawbone, he cried.

Georgia Chief Medical Examiner Kris Sperry testified that Theresa Parker's jawbone showed signs of injury or force of some kind that broke the bone, likely before her death.

"That thought brought a tear to my eye. That she went through that hell in the last few minutes," Jon Wilson said.

On Monday, Patterson said she is pleased with the outcome and that the judge's decision confirms what she has said all along.

"We knew that it would be a hard to try a case like that, but we felt like we had strong circumstantial evidence," she said. "I'm glad it worked out the way it did, for the family."

Contact Staff Writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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