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Video: Missing mom’s sister ‘not surprised’ ex is suspect

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    >>> we're going to begin with new details in the case of missing florida mother. she vanished following an appearance on "the people's court." they say her former fiance is the primary focus of this investigation. we'll talk to parker's sister in just a moment but lilia is here with the latest.

    >> reporter: good morning to you, savannah. it was a bombshell in the search of a missing mom that's captivated orlando. after saying for days her ex-fiance is not a suspect, police are now saying he's the only suspect. missing mom michelle parker in happier times with dale smith , the father of her 3-year-old twins. now the chief suspect in her disappearance.

    >> after numerous tips and investigative leads, we are officially naming dale smith , the ex-fiance, as the primary suspect in the disappearance of michelle parker.

    >> you could have avoided this, dale, if you had cooperated with the police and took a polygraph test when they asked you, you know. you could have eliminated a lot of stress, so unfortunately you brought this on yourself.

    >> reporter: a youtube video and postings on facebook offer an inside look into the life of the man believed to be the last person to see michelle when she dropped off their twins at his house.

    >> he's suing for $5,000, the value of the ring.

    >> reporter: hours after the two were seen on national tv arguing over a lost engagement ring on a taped episode of "the people's court."

    >> he's a mean person, especially when he's been drinking.

    >> reporter: when michelle told her mom she was humiliated by the experience, smith promoted the episode on his facebook page where he also posted photos showing him dressed up as some of his favorite movie and comic book characters. captain america , gi joe , luke skywalker , costumes he wears to science fiction conventions . but at 11:08 on the night of michelle 's disappearance a darker post on his wall. oh man, oh man, michelle , the mother of my kids is missing. her mother called me and said she never showed up to work after dropping the kids off with me. the police just came by and searched my whole house. this isn't good, my kids need their mother. this was not the last time police searched smith's. on saturday a s.w.a.t. team raided his father's home.

    >> nothing of significance was found in that location.

    >> reporter: smith posted on facebook that he prays for michelle 's safe return. he also tries to clear his name saying i'm not that time of person. if you know me, then you know the truth. just what michelle 's family is seeking.

    >> we're not going to stop until we find out who did this. we love our michelle so much.

    >> reporter: we're learning this morning that smith has hired a well-known orlando criminal attorney , but police say they're not looking to arrest smith. we have reached out to him and his family for comment, but they have not responded. savannah.

    >> all right, thank you.

    >>> we're joined by michelle parker's sister, lauren erickson. good morning to you. thank you for being with us.

    >> thank you.

    >> i know these are really difficult days and i just wonder what your reaction is to the police coming out and now saying that your sister's ex-fiance, dale smith , is a primary focus of this investigation. i know early on you and your mom and your family members didn't suspect him. have you changed your mind now?

    >> 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 that she was supposed to go to drop off the kids. i'm honestly not surprised that this has happened, no.

    >> what have police told you, if anything, about why it is they do now consider him a suspect?

    >> as to why, i'm really not sure. i mean i have my own theories, just because of their past and everything and he was the last one to see her and he is now not cooperating. they asked him to take a polygraph test and he said no. there's a couple of other things that he's not doing as well, he's not cooperating and he hasn't let us see the kids.

    >> lauren , what are your suspicions here?

    >> my suspicion, i mean 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.

    >> are you concerned that he still has custody of their twins?

    >> i don't think he would ever do anything to hurt his own children. he has surprised me in the past of doing things that i thought he would never do, so is it a concern? i mean yeah, kinda.

    >> you mentioned "the people's court" a few minutes ago. she disappeared the same day that this episode aired. early on michelle 's mom said she thought that was just a coincidence. it sounds like you think this show had something to do with it. do you know what?

    >> i don't know what it may have had to do with it. i just know that i last saw my sister at 2:30 who said she was dropping her kids off and going home to take a nap. at 6:50 i get a phone call from my oldest nephew asking me where his mom is. the instant i had that phone call , it went straight to my mind, i'm not going to lie. but i was hoping, i was hoping for the best that something like this wouldn't happen.

    >> very quickly, we saw in the piece that dale has posted several messages on facebook since michelle 's disappearance including one that said dear god please keep michelle safe and return her home unharmed and another said i hope they find her and bring her home. what's your reaction to seeing that?

    >> i didn't even know he had a facebook . as far as i knew he was deleted. he's not a friend of mine or my family's on facebook . he has not tried to contact my family nor has his family tried to contact my family to help hand out a single flier.

    >> lauren erickson, i know these are difficult days and we wish you all the best in the search for your sister.

    >> thank you.

    >> if you have any information call 1-800-432-tips. now we'll get

By
TODAY contributor
updated 11/29/2011 9:01:47 AM ET 2011-11-29T14:01:47

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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Video: Missing mom’s sister ‘not surprised’ ex is suspect (on this page)

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.

TODAY
Michelle Parker has been missing since November 17.

“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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