The Death of Theresa Parker: husband convicted but is he guilty of murder?

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911 dispatcher Theresa Parker, 42, went missing from Lafayette, Walker County, Georgia, on March 21, 2007. Her body was found in September 2010. Despite no physical evidence linking him to her murder, Parker’s police officer husband, Sam Parker, was convicted of her murder.

Parker’s family and friends reported that the marriage between Parker and her husband was rocky, initiating fights with each other on multiple occasions. Parker had threatened divorce a few times before but always returned to him. In March 2007, still unsure leaving him was what she wanted to do, Parker decided to end the marriage. She found a lovely apartment and was moving into it when she disappeared.

Her sister, Christina Hall, saw Parker on the night of March 21st.  Hall said her sister was very excited about the move and looked forward to spending more time with her family.

Hall did not talk to her sister the following day. At 6:00 a.m. on March 22, Parker’s friend and co-worker, Rhonda Knox, became worried after receiving a phone call from Parker’s phone. When she answered, the caller paused for a few seconds, then hung up. Knox had said that was out of character for Parker because she would never do that.

Knox tried calling Parker back, but the call went to voice mail. She then called the Parker home—no answer there either.

Worried, Knox asked police officer friend Shane Green to check on Parker. He knocked on the doors. No answer. While talking with Knox, she told Green to check the garage because Parker always parked her car there. So Green did, and there was no car. Sam Parker’s patrol car was in there, and his pickup truck was parked outside. But no signs of Parker were present.

Later that day, Parker’s SUV mysteriously arrived at the house, but no one saw who drove it, whether it was Parker or someone else.

On Friday, March 23, Hall repeatedly called her sister, but Parker never answered her phone. Sam Parker told Hall that he went fishing that morning on March 21, and when he left, his wife’s car was in the garage.

Everyone began calling Parker, including her husband. She never answered. More than 24 hours had passed with no word from Parker. Then, on Saturday, March 24, her family decided to call the police to report her missing.

Theresa Parker: photo of husband Sam Parker
Sam Parker

When asked by police where he was the night of her disappearance, Sam Parker replied that he was in his pickup truck all night. Cops became suspicious because three witnesses reported his truck at his house on Thursday morning.

LE pulled Sam Parker’s cell phone records and discovered that he had called his wife two times in the early morning of March 22, 2007. He told them he had last spoken with her around 7:30 p.m. on March 21, 2007, when she was loading her stuff into her car to take to her new apartment.

A crime scene specialist was brought to investigate Parker’s Toyota Forerunner. He found some blood on the back of the SUV, which later proved to be from Parker with Sam Parker’s DNA mixed in. I don’t know how much blood was found, but it didn’t sound like a lot. It was also reported that the back had recently been vacuumed.

Law enforcement and volunteers performed a massive search for the missing woman through the woods, where Sam Parker grew up and knew very well. They drained and searched ponds and combed through the local landfill.

“We provided [dogs] a scent of Mr. Parker’s scent off his clothes and also off his patrol car,” Special Agent Marc Veazey said. “They ran as they alerted to his scent, all up this hill, and back down this way as indicating he had been here.”

They did not find Parker or any evidence leading them to her.

Authorities even searched Sam Parker’s home five times. They confiscated old guns and rifles, but investigators did not believe they were connected to his wife’s disappearance.

“I told ’em, y’all … didn’t even search her closet, you didn’t look through her personal stuff. You went in and you looked for things and took things of mine and only looked at me,” Sam Parker said.

Nearly one year after his wife disappeared, Sam Parker was arrested and tried for murder.

During the trial, Parker’s friends and family told the court that Sam Parker was abusive and obsessive. He had accused Theresa of cheating on him on several occasions. However, no one mentioned that Sam Parker had ever physically hurt his wife. According to Sam Parker’s brother, Kenneth Parker, it was more mental abuse, which they both would do to each other.

The week before Parker disappeared, she traveled to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and stayed at the Honey Bee Hide-a-Way. She wanted a quick getaway before her move and the divorce. Parker told Hall she was going alone. But Sam Parker was not convinced. He suspected she had gone with another man, so he called the lodge and convinced the desk clerk to send him Theresa’s reservation.

The lodge listed two people as staying in Parker’s room, and she had registered under the last name of Barker instead of Parker. The name could have been an error on the clerk’s part, but the number of people listed show’s that she obviously, at the very least, invited someone to stay with her. The defense believed it was Green, the same officer sent by Knox to check on Parker the morning of Thursday, March 22, 2007. Green denied being at the cabin and having an affair with Parker.

When Parker went missing, her husband told police he believed she ran off to Mexico with a guy named Elvis. I know it sounds far-fetched, but Parker had vacationed in Mexico with her nieces, and on that trip, they met a resort entertainer named Elvis. Investigators headed to Cancun to check it out, but Elvis must have had an alibi.

Sam Parker’s second wife, Keila Beaird, told the court he had threatened to kill her and dispose of her body where nobody would ever find it.

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), Special Agent James Harris, “He told everybody in Walker County, but a couple, that he knew how to get rid of a body and no one [would] ever find it. He’d talk about puttin’ ’em in ponds and the turtles would eat ’em.”

Sam Parker’s good friend and co-worker, Ben Chaffin, claimed that on March 21, 2007, Sam Parker called him and told him he shot his wife in the head and buried her body where it would be hard to find. Now, most people would see this as what sealed the deal, but it seems that Chaffin had given investigators FIVE different stories and had been arrested for helping Sam Parker hack into Parker’s computer. The prosecution gave him immunity in exchange for testifying.

What the bloody hell?

In his very first conversation with GBI, Chaffin failed to tell this to the agents, claiming in court that he forgot. Patterson defended this on “48 Hours Mystery” by saying, “When we talked to him, it became very clear to us that he was very, very close to Sam Parker. The person that he looked at as a father, as a brother, had done somethin’ so terrible he couldn’t wrap his mind around it.”

Sure, Jan.

The prosecution’s theory was Sam Parker killed his wife with a chokehold. Photos showing bruises inside Sam Parker’s right arm were apparently a significant clue to what happened.

“What we felt was that Mr. Parker, who is known to abuse chokeholds in the past, had used this maneuver on Theresa and that she had fought back by putting her hands up. And that’s what left the bruises on the inside of his arm,” explained FBI Special Agent Marc Veazey.”I think she fought for her life in the end. And those bruises are evidence of that,” said Prosecutor Leigh Patterson.

“We felt?” Where’s the proof, buddy?

Patterson gave the courtroom a dramatic demonstration of the chokehold, which she believes Sam Parker used to kill his wife. I saw it on “48 Hours Mystery,” and to me, it proved nothing. According to the demonstration, Parker would have put her hands outside of her husband’s arm, not inside. Sam Parker had bruises on the inside of his arm, and they did not look like finger marks.

On Sept. 3, 2009, Sam Parker was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. One year later, in September 2010, Parker’s remains were found. Some reports say they were found behind a cornfield in Chattooga County; Others say along the banks of the Chattooga River. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), who initially investigated Parker’s disappearance, said Parker was murdered despite no evidence on the remains leading to this conclusion.

In 2014, the Georgia Supreme Court denied Sam Parker’s appeal.

Theresa Parker: prison photo of husband Sam Parker
Sam Parker’s prison photo/Georgia Dept. of Corrections

Source: 48 Hours Mystery


Katherine Owens November 23, 2012 - 11:09 AM

I know this is months behind but I felt overwhelmed to vent; and after I read your blog entry about the case, I knew that it would be bug me to death if I didn't reply to it. So, as I was watching the usual 4 billion episodes of 48 Hours tonight, this one came on. Let me explain, I watch an ungodly amount of crime documentaries (it's been a weird passion of mine since I was a teenager) and out of all of the hundreds that I've seen, NONE have left me as frustrated and pissed off as the Parker case. You bring up SO MANY reasonable (not to mention sensible) arguments for why this case was so….just sloppy and bias…and kind of just wrong. Putting aside that I feel like no unbiased jury would ever convict an individual of 1st degree murder with such a lack of forensic evidence (and let's be honest, even the circumstantial evidence was a bit dicey and unfounded for my taste), there were so many aspects of the case that were incomplete. Let's begin with the weekend at the cabin. Why would Mrs. Parker make a reservation for 2 and why was the reservation made under the name “Barker”? The prosecution argued that she was alone and I don't recall any explanations on why the name was wrong. Two errors on her reservation? That's sketchy. It's real sketchy. Yeah, it could have been clerical errors. Yeah, there may have been a misunderstanding via the phone reservation, but either way, that would be pushing it. If she loved going there so much, then why didn't we see her previous reservations? I'd like to see the differentiations between her last reservation and all the others she made. I'd like to hear from the person that took her reservation. Just something…anything! The other big problem I have is with the bruising. Really? REALLY? If I was put into a choke hold, I'm scratching my way out. If she had enough leverage to grab his arm, then she had the ability to scratch the hell out of him. No scratches. None. It just doesn't make sense. I could go on and on. You basically point out every problem I have with this case. I wish there was some way these things could be considered prior to this man's request for a retrial. I don't know if he is guilty or not and that's the EXACT reason every lead, avenue, etc, etc, should be investigated and exhausted by law enforcement. Thank you for your post!! –Katy

Dan Holloway February 25, 2017 - 12:57 PM

You are right. He may have done it but they did NOT prove him guilty – or even ‘indicate strongly’ that he did. This trial was a farce.

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