It's been more than two years since Theresa Parker disappeared.
Nearly an entire year has passed since a robotic camera dove into a spring-fed waterhole near LaFayette, the last publicized search for the body of the missing Walker County 911 dispatcher.
And it's been more than a year since former LaFayette police officer Sam Parker was indicted on charges that he intentionally murdered his wife of more than a decade.
Today, Mr. Parker is scheduled to appear in Walker County's Superior Court for the first of at least two motion hearings. Even though his wife's body has never been found, Mr. Parker is charged with malice murder and three other felonies - invasion of privacy, obstructing justice and violation of his oath as a law officer.
"Hopefully, it will be over soon," said Mrs. Parker's sister, Hilda Wilson, who planned to travel from Florida to attend the hearing. "Hopefully, he goes to prison for the rest of his life."
A defense lawyer is expected to argue today that evidence in the case was obtained illegally and that the indictment is faulty, among other motions. A prosecutor will present evidence that Mr. Parker has behaved violently in the past.
There will be at least one more motion hearing, which is tentatively scheduled for May 15. The tentative trial date is currently June 8.
Under Georgia law, murder is defined as the killing of another human being with malice aforethought or during the commission of a separate felony. "Malice" means that the defendant deliberately intended to take the life of another human being without justification. Mr. Parker is charged with malice murder. To get a conviction, the state must prove that a person is dead and that murder was the cause of death. There is no requirement of an actual dead body. There have been four cases that have ever been prosecuted without a body.
SOURCE: Area law officials
The case of Theresa Parker, last seen on March 21, 2007, has drawn national media attention, provoked countless searches for a body, and inspired events from upbeat fundraisers and somber candlelight vigils. The case made headlines on CNN's "Nancy Grace" and Fox News' "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren."
Mr. Parker has maintained from the start that he did not kill his wife.
He initially suggested that perhaps she went to Florida and didn't tell anyone. He later likened himself to a sheep among wolves, saying he had been targeted unfairly in the investigation and made "the bad guy."
Less than a month after his wife disappeared, Mr. Parker was fired from the LaFayette Police Department for having plastic explosives stored in his locker at the police station. Authorities say there is no connection to the investigation except that it was the reason for the search.
The investigation into Mrs. Parker's disappearance also prompted the arrest of another former LaFayette police officer, Harbin "Ben" Chaffin, who worked with Mr. Parker.
Mr. Chaffin has been charged with three felonies - invasion of privacy, obstructing justice and violation of his oath as a law officer. He posted a $10,000 bond in September 2007 and went to stay at his mother's in Alabama.
His lawyer, David Cunningham, did not return calls seeking comment about Mr. Chaffin's status.
Mr. and Mrs. Parker, who were in the midst of divorce when Mrs. Parker disappeared, were well known in Walker County. Suspicions of foul play left the community shaken. But in the last year, attention to the case has faded.
LaFayette resident Monty Morrison, who knew Mr. and Mrs. Parker, said he hasn't heard much talk about it lately.
"Usually in a small town you will hear a rumor about evidence," he said. "I'm sure that any new development will bring it right back and smack everybody in the face all over again."
Lookout Mountain District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin removed himself from the case since he knows Mr. Parker, and Floyd County District Attorney Leigh Patterson took over in April 2007 - immediately telling everyone involved to stop talking.
Holding her position, Ms. Patterson declined to comment this week about today's hearing.
Lawyers are expected to appear before Superior Court Judge Jon "Bo" Wood today. Mr. Parker's public defender, David Dunn, has filed motions arguing that evidence in the case was obtained illegally and that the indictment is faulty. Mr. Dunn also filed a motion asking that the trial be held outside Walker County where "a significant portion the community feeling is strongly against" Mr. Parker.
Publicity over the case "makes it exceedingly unlikely that an impartial, unbiased jury could be selected" there, the motion states.
Although a change of venue motion was filed, that doesn't guarantee the trial will be moved, officials said.
Ms. Patterson has filed a notice of "intent to present evidence of past similar charges" against Mr. Parker. Some of the charges came out in the bond hearing, when six witnesses described a violent, threatening and unstable Mr. Parker.
Ms. Patterson's document alleges that Mr. Parker assaulted and falsely imprisoned his ex-wife, Keila Beird, and made "terrorist threats" against Mrs. Parker's mother, Claire Carruthers, among other charges.
Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said all evidence gathered by county, FBI and Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents has been turned over to the prosecution.
There no longer is a full team dedicated to searching for Mrs. Parker, but authorities still follow up if they get tips, which are fewer and farther between lately, Sheriff Wilson said. The GBI and FBI are always a phone call away, he said.
"They are still readily available," Sheriff Wilson said. "All I'd have to do is call them."
Mrs. Wilson said it's difficult to believe that her sister has been gone for so long.
"The hardest thing is just not knowing where she is," Mrs. Wilson said. "I'm to the point I wonder if she will ever be found."