published Sunday, June 1st, 2014

Georgia top court to hear Sam Parker appeal

  • 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., in this April 2012 photo. On Monday Parker will appeal his 2009 murder conviction in the death of his wife, Theresa.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Former LaFayette, Ga., police sergeant Sam Parker on Monday afternoon will appeal his conviction and life sentence for the murder of his third wife, Theresa Parker, a Walker County 911 operator.

In September 2009, a jury imported from Bartow County for the high-profile case found Parker guilty of murdering Theresa Parker, making a false statement and violation of oath by a public officer. A year later, on Sept. 10, 2010, Theresa Parker's skeletal remains were found in a remote part of Chattooga County, Ga., near the home of Sam Parker's father.

Parker's attorney, Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Public Defender David J. Dunn, argues the trial court made three errors so serious the rulings should be reversed and Parker's charges dismissed.

Walker County sheriff's deputies illegally searched Parker's home without a warrant, Dunn argues. They trespassed on his property and the evidence found at the home should have been suppressed but was instead used to contradict Parker's pretrial statements. Parker's answer about the vehicle he had driven the morning his wife disappeared was contradicted by what the deputies had seen in the garage. But their search was "unconstitutional and void," Dunn argues in briefs.

Among the incidents presented to the jury in 2009: In 1989, Parker became enraged at his second wife. He broke a glass on the floor, then grabbed her by her hair, dragging her through the glass and handcuffing her to their bed.

Later that year, after he and his second wife separated, he let himself into her house, accused her of seeing other men, choked her and held a gun to her head, threatening to blow out her brains. He later told her that if she told anyone what he'd done, "he would kill me and I could trust him when he told me that he knew how to do it without getting caught and they would never find my body," she testified.

Later, in separate incidents, he threatened to kill Theresa Parker's mother and her former sister-in-law, also vowing to each that no one would ever find their bodies.

Prosecutors also brought in as evidence a 2002 domestic violence call to Sam and Theresa Parker's home. The responding officer found Sam Parker in a rage, accusing his wife of being unfaithful. Theresa Parker had a mark on her face and neck that appeared to be the result of a blow. Her clothes and belongings had been thrown outside.

Floyd County District Attorney Leigh Patterson, who was brought in to prosecute Parker in 2009, and Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens' office argue that the trial court properly denied Parker's motion to suppress evidence from the garage search.

"The deputies were conducting a welfare check, not a search of the premises," the state's attorneys argue in briefs, noting the deputies were concerned about Theresa Parker's safety.

They also argue that Parker's past history was relevant, because he "threatened to shoot and/or kill the contemplated victim and bury their body where no one could find it." He "became enraged and irrational over an issue of infidelity and jealousy. He engaged in violent, threatening, controlling behavior."

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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