Ex-cop charged in missing wife's murder

February 6, 2008 5:35:00 AM PST
A former police officer and estranged husband of a 911 dispatcher who disappeared in March 2007 was arrested Monday and charged in the Georgia woman's murder even though her body has never been found. Sam Parker, 52, had been a person of interest in the investigation since Theresa Parker, 42, went missing March 21, 2007. The couple was in the middle of a divorce when she vanished.

"This was the culmination of evidence collected from day one until yesterday [Monday]," Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson told ABC News.

The woman's remains have not been recovered, but Wilson said there is precedent for getting a conviction. There have been at least two cases in Georgia since 1993 in which prosecutors have convicted murder suspects despite lacking a body.

"It is unusual. It's not common you would go forth on a murder case [without a body]," Wilson said, "but we are prepared to go forward."

Sam Parker, who lost his job as a sergeant for the LaFayette Police Department in April when state investigators discovered explosives in his locker, surrendered to authorities Monday morning on his front porch. Walker County authorities were joined by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the FBI in the arrest.

The murder suspect had steadfastly denied involvement in his estranged wife's disappearance throughout the nearly 11-month investigation. He is being held at the Floyd County Jail to avoid interactions with inmates in Walker County whom he may have helped apprehend or convict. It was unclear whether the suspect, who had not yet been arraigned on the murder charge, had hired an attorney.

In one of the few interviews Sam Parker granted before his arrest, he told the Chattanooga Times Free Press in December that he had been unfairly targeted in the woman's disappearance. "Everything I've ever said has been swept under the carpet and made me the bad guy," he said.

The former police officer told the newspaper that his wife had been acting strangely before she disappeared and that he believed she was having an affair. He also said that authorities gave up on other potential leads prematurely to focus on him.

Christina Hall, Theresa Parker's sister, described Monday's arrest as "bittersweet." "It's a step forward, but it's also really hard because, you know, Sam Parker was a member of our family for 17 years."

She also said that Parker should tell authorities where the woman's remains are, if he knows, a goal that Wilson said remains a No. 1 priority in an ongoing investigation. "Do not forget Theresa Parker," Wilson said. "We want to find her remains and give her remains to her family for a Christian burial."

Police had responded to domestic dispute calls at the Parker residence at least twice between 2002 and 2004, according to police logs obtained by ABC affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta.

Ben Chaffin, a LaFayette police colleague who worked beneath Sam Parker, has been charged with evidence tampering and computer invasion of privacy charges tied to Theresa Parker's death. Wilson declined to elaborate on how those charges might play into Sam Parker's prosecution.

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