Parker trial turns media spotlight on Walker County

Parker trial turns media spotlight on Walker County

September 2nd, 2009 by Chloé Morrison in News

LaFAYETTE, Ga. -- Longtime resident Gerald Gravitt said his city doesn't get major media attention, for the most part.

"Unless something like this happens," he said, standing outside the Walker County Courthouse and awaiting a verdict in the Sam Parker murder trial. "(The media attention) brings more excitement."

Mr. Parker, a former LaFayette police officer, is charged with killing his wife, Walker County 911 dispatcher Theresa Parker. Mr. Parker has pleaded not guilty.

The trial began Aug. 17 and the case is now in the jury's hands.

PARKER JURY

Jurors in Sam Parker's murder case have come to a decision on three charges not related to murder, they told the judge Tuesday. The forewoman said they have verdicts on the charges of making false statements, computer invasion of privacy and violation of oath as a public officer.

On the charge of malice murder in the death of Theresa Parker, the forewoman said the jurors are split 4-8.

Deliberation continues today in Walker County Superior Court.

Mr. and Mrs. Parker were well-known in the community and, since both worked in public service, the case has drawn intense interest.

Media have come not only from Walker County, Chattanooga and Atlanta media outlets, but also from such national figures as CNN's Nancy Grace and Fox News' Greta Van Susteren.

During the trial Mr. Parker's lawyer, David Dunn, blamed assumptions of his client's guilt on the media attention.

Local officials said Mrs. Parker's disappearance in March, 2007, prompted the biggest search and murder investigation ever in Northwest Georgia. In the early days of the search about a dozen media outlets surrounded the Walker County Courthouse. Attention has ebbed and flowed over the last two years.

Some LaFayette residents this week said they aren't used to having reporters and television cameras camped out in their city. Others said they just ignore journalists' focus on their hometown.

Many said they are rapt in the case. Some took time off work over the last two weeks to see lawyers state their cases. Others stayed up late to watch the trial when it was replayed on Fort Oglethorpe's UCTV-3 TV station.

LaFayette resident Judy Howard she has come to the courthouse to watch the trial since its second day.

"From Day Two I was hooked," she said. "It's like a book: Once you start reading you can't stop."

Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said Tuesday that the only event that brought more media attention to the county was the 2002 Tri-State Crematory case.

Brent Marsh, operator of the Tri-State Crematory in Noble, was accused of accepting money for hundreds of cremations that were never performed. Bodies in various states of decomposition were found all over his property. Mr. Marsh is serving a 12-year prison sentence in Georgia.

Sheriff Wilson said media outlets surrounded the courthouse during the crematory case.

"It was something to be seen," he said.