A day after her sister’s ex-fiance was named as a suspect by the police in Michelle Parker’s disappearance, Lauren Erickson told TODAY that she felt all along that Dale Smith Jr. was involved.
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Smith and Parker appeared on a taped episode of “The People’s Court’’ that aired on Nov. 17, and only hours later, the 33-year-old mother of 3-year-old twins with Smith disappeared. On Monday, Orlando police named Smith as the prime suspect in the case. Parker was last seen dropping off her twins at Smith’s home at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 17.
“I think it’s something that’s definitely been on the back of my mind ever since the second she went missing just because of the show airing that day as well as that was the last place she was supposed to go to drop off the kids,’’ Erickson told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie Tuesday. “I’m honestly not surprised that this has happened.
“I don’t know what he knows, I don’t know what he did — I just wish that for his children’s sake to have their mother that he would say something. He was the last one to see her. He knows something. I don’t doubt for a second in my mind that he knows something.’’Story: Police Name Ex As Suspect In Parker's Disappearance
A day after Parker’s disappearance, her Hummer sport-utility vehicle was found abandoned on the west side of Orlando, according to police. Her brother also reported getting a cryptic, one-word text message — that said, simply, "Waterford" — from Parker’s phone at 4:26 p.m. on the day of her disappearance. Waterford is an area of Orlando. At 6:50 p.m., Erickson received a call from Parker’s 11-year-old son from another relationship who was concerned that his mother was not home yet. Parker did not show up for her shift as a bartender at 7:30 p.m.
Smith Jr. has declined to take a polygraph test and has hired a well-known Orlando criminal attorney. On Facebook, he pleaded for Parker’s return while also making statements to clear his name, but did not respond to NBC’s requests for comment.Story: Mom of missing woman: 'We’re going to bring you home'
“I’m not that type of person,’’ he wrote on Facebook. “If you know me, then you know the truth.’’
“You could have avoided this, Dale, if you had cooperated with the police and took a polygraph test when they asked you,’’ Parker’s mother, Yvonne Stewart, told reporters. “You could have eliminated a lot of stress, so unfortunately you brought this on yourself.’’
A past between Parker and Smith that sometimes became violent came to light in the episode of “The People’s Court’’ that involved a dispute over a $5,000 engagement ring. Parker was ordered by the judge to pay $2,500 for half the cost of the ring. Parker made mention of a tempestuous past with Smith.
“He gets pretty malicious and vindictive,’’ Parker said on the show. “And he’s a mean person, especially when he’s been drinking. 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.’’
“I have my own theories (of what happened) just because of their past and everything,’’ Erickson told Guthrie. “He was the last one to see her, and he is now not cooperating.
“I don’t know what (appearing on ‘The People’s Court’) may have had to do with it. The instant I had that phone call (from her nephew), it went straight to my mind. I’m not going to lie. I was hoping for the best that something like this wouldn’t happen.’’Video: Mom of missing woman pleads for her return
Smith remains in custody of the couple’s three-year-old twins and has not allowed Parker’s family to see them, according to Erickson. On Saturday, a SWAT team raided his father’s home, but the police said they found nothing of significance.
“I don’t think he would ever do anything to hurt his own children,’’ Erickson said. “He has surprised me in the past in doing things that I thought he would never do, so is there concern? Yeah, kind of.’’
Parker’s family had no idea Smith even had an active Facebook account, thinking it was deleted, and Erickson said he is not friends with anyone in the Parker family.
“He has not tried to contact my family to help hand out a single flyer,’’ Erickson said.
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