One wait over, another begins

Among the radios, switchboards and telephones in the dimly lit Walker County 911 dispatch room, a sign has stayed pinned to a corkboard for more than three years.

"Missing: Theresa Parker," the sign reads.

"Nobody wants to take it down," said 911 Director David Ashburn, a day after Parker's body was found.

Walker County 911 employees are still in shock that the skeletal remains of their former co-worker were found in Chattooga County earlier this week and identified Wednesday afternoon.

"We're used to being on the other side of this; it's not on our side of the phone," said 911 dispatcher Tracy Paris, who worked with Parker for 15 years.

Since Parker went missing in March 2007, her disappearance has attracted national media attention, kept her family and the community in limbo and baffled local and state police.

Parker's husband, Sam, a former LaFayette police officer, was convicted of murdering her last year, even though her body had not been found.

But police say a farmer on Monday found a jawbone behind a cornfield near the Chattooga River. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab identified Theresa Parker's remains through dental records, police said.

Now her family and close friends say they must relive the pain again.

"We're trying to recover from the blow again," said Theresa Parker's sister Hilda Wilson.

While family members are relieved they finally have confirmation of her death, Wilson said the grief is the similar to when Theresa Parker first went missing.

"Nobody will ever change the fact that she was brutally murdered," Wilson said. "The last thing we can do for her is give her a final farewell."

Sam Parker, who is serving a life sentence at the Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, filed a motion for a new trial last year. David Dunn, the public defender who represented him, said he visited the site where Theresa Parker's remains were found on Thursday but did not want to comment on any of the details.

On Thursday morning, Wilson and her husband drove from their home in Florida to LaFayette to grieve with the rest of the family and begin to plan a memorial service.

Police have not given a timeframe for when Theresa Parker's remains will be returned to the family, but Wilson said the family hopes the wait won't be long.

GBI agents and sheriff's investigators finished examining the site where the bones were found around noon Thursday and cleared the area, said Chattooga County Sheriff John Everett.

The jawbone was found in a creek connected to the Chattooga River, he said, and more bones found Wednesday and Thursday were scattered across a 10-foot area nearby.

Investigators mowed down brush in the wooded area where the skeletal remains were found.

"Now they are looking at the bones for possibilities of how she was murdered," Everett said.

While police said they hope to find a cause of death, Everett said Thursday there are no obvious physical signs to indicate how she died.

Meanwhile, Wilson said the family has a flicker of hope that the answers will come.

"(But) all of our questions may not be answered until we see her again," she said.

Contact Joy Lukachick at or (423) 757-6659. Follow her on Twitter at

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