LaFAYETTE, Ga. - Missing 911 dispatcher Theresa Parker's youngest niece told a jury Thursday that she was so desperate for answers about her aunt she once tried to get a reaction from murder suspect Sam Parker by throwing fliers bearing his missing wife's picture in his yard.
"I wanted to send a message that we weren't going to give up," Ashten Gilbert testified. "I wanted him to see her face. I hope he sees her face every time he closes his eyes."
Mr. Parker, a former LaFayette police officer, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife Theresa, a LaFayette 911 dispatcher last seen on March 21. He has pleaded not guilty and is on trial in Walker County Superior Court.
Ms. Gilbert, 20, was the last of Mrs. Parker's three nieces to testify Thursday. Mrs. Parker's sisters, Hilda Wilson and Christina Hall, also testified Thursday. Before the woman walked into the courtroom, they took a minute to hug each other.
Another niece, Arica Patterson, 21, who is five months pregnant and testified first, walked into the courtroom crying and carrying a box of tissues. She told the jury that her uncle acted like he would never get in trouble because he was the law.
"He called (his badge) his get-out-of-jail-free card," Mrs. Patterson said.
Mr. Parker's public defender David Dunn didn't cross-examine the nieces, but he did question Mrs. Wilson and Mrs. Hall.
Ms. Gilbert said Mrs. Parker had taken a trip alone to Gatlinburg to clear her head just before she disappeared. When Mrs. Parker was on the way home from the trip, she talked to her aunt on the phone, Ms. Gilbert said.
"She told me when she came back she was going to tell her husband she was going to leave," Ms. Gilbert said. "She told me she was scared to tell him."
Family members said alcohol was a big problem in the Parkers' relationship and told several stories of strange, belligerent and aggressive behavior by Mr. Parker. But all of them said they never saw physical violence between the couple.
After testimony from the family, the state rested its case following Judge Jon "Bo" Wood's ruling that District Attorney Leigh Patterson could not bring in her final two witnesses.