A woman whose daughter has gone missing since screening an appearance on “The People’s Court’’ that left her “humiliated” pleaded for her safe return Tuesday.
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Yvonne Stewart, the mother of 33-year-old Michelle Parker, appeared on TODAY alongside Parker’s brother, Dustin Erickson. The mother of three from Orlando has been missing for five days since a taped appearance on “The People’s Court’’ aired Thursday. In the episode, Judge Marilyn Milian settled a dispute between Parker and her ex-fiance, Dale Smith, the father of her 3-year-old twins, over an engagement ring.
Parker’s Humvee was found abandoned by police on Friday in a neighborhood she rarely frequented after her family had suspected something was wrong the previous night when she didn’t show up for her bartending shift at 7:30 p.m. She was last seen at 2 p.m. Thursday while dropping off the twins at Smith’s house. Smith has not been considered a suspect or person of interest by police and is currently caring for the children. He did not have any comment for NBC News.Story: Woman disappears after "The People's Court" argument airs
“I know in my heart of hearts that she’s been carjacked,’’ Stewart told TODAY’s Ann Curry. “People saw an expensive car and a girl who looks like she has money. I know they’ve made a mistake, and I know that they want to fix this, and I forgive them. It’s Thanksgiving. She wants to come home to her babies. We want her home.’’
“We are doing absolutely everything we can,’’ Stewart said. “I know she already knows that. She knows how much we love her. We are getting closer every second. Every day that we haven’t found her just makes me stronger and stronger that she’s close by, and we’re going to find you, baby girl. We’re going to bring you home.’’
The episode of “The People’s Court’’ illustrated tensions between Parker and Smith, and left Parker embarrassed, according to her mother. Judge Milian ordered the couple to split the cost of the ring, ruling that Parker owed Smith $2,500 for her share.
“He said he wanted his ring, so I took it off, and I threw it at him,’’ Parker said on the show.
“You’re both like complete idiots, please stop,’’ Milian responded.
Parker also revealed damaging details about her relationship with Smith, indicating he had a drinking issue and that he became physical with her in the past. She had a restraining order against him in 2009 that was later struck down by a judge.
“He gets pretty malicious and vindictive, especially when he’s been drinking,’’ Parker said on the show. “He shouldn’t have put his hands on me, and he shouldn’t have put his hands on me prior. He shouldn’t have left me three or four times over the past year-and-a-half that we’ve been together.’’Video: Police hunt for mom from ‘People’s Court’ case
Though Parker, Stewart has said, was "humiliated" by the appearance on the show, her family believes she wouldn't run away or hide because of it.
“No, no there’s no chance whatsoever,’’ Erickson told Curry. “She’s got three kids. I’m pretty sure that’s a little more of a priority to her than being seen in public. I do believe the show was (Smith’s) idea in the first place. It had to be an option in his mind. I doubt anything that malicious would happen just because the show aired that day.’’
“I think it is purely coincidental,’’ Stewart said. “Nobody even knew when that was going to air. We didn’t even know it was on the air until somebody called us. Thank God it did air because now she’s gone and you guys are trying to help us find her.’’
Despite her daughter’s past difficulties with Smith, Stewart does not believe he is involved in Parker’s disappearance.
“He was the last person to see her, (and) he’s cooperated fully with the police,’’ Stewart told NBC News. “They have all of his cell phones, his computers, (and) he has allowed them to search everything.’’
Stewart pleaded with the abductors she believes have car-jacked Parker to drop her off at a nearby hospital, church or fire station and provide her with food and water. An extensive search involving dogs, ATVs and people on horseback has commenced, and a $13,000 reward has been offered to anyone with tips that could lead to Parker’s safe return.
“For the first time in my life, I have been climbing under trains, I have been going through ditches and Dumpsters, praying that she’s not there,’’ Stewart tearfully told NBC News.
A few hours after Parker was last seen, Erickson received a one-word text message that read, “Waterford,’’ which is a neighborhood in Orlando.
Cryptically, her mother said at the end of the interview with Curry that she knew where her daughter may be but could not act on it.
“The only thing that frustrates me, and it’s not with the police department, it’s with our lives in general,’’ Stewart said. “I have really good information that she may be in a certain area, and I can’t just go kick the door down and go in and get her.’’
Anyone with information on Parker’s disappearance is urged to contact the Orlando Police Department at (407) 246-2916.
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