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Video: Attorneys: Timeline clears ex-finance in missing-mom case

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    >>> the nearly two-week old disappearance of a florida mother , we'll talk to the suspect's attorneys in a moment. first janet shamlian in florida.

    >> reporter: there are new developments in the case involving the children of michelle parker, the 3-year-old twins were reportedly questioned by police and sometime after that questioning late yesterday they were removed from the home of their father, dale smith , who had been caring for them and who has been identified as the only suspect in this case. there is an emergency temporary custody hearing set for later today for two children who have been asking for their mother now for almost two weeks.

    >> is that a train?

    >> reporter: michelle parker's 3-year-old twins nor longer with their father, dale smith , her ex-fiance and the man police say is the only suspect in michelle 's disappearance. the little boy and girl were taken away from smith by the state tuesday and spent the night with their grandmother, michelle 's mother . a hearing today will determine who will care for them, as the search for their mom continues.

    >> i want dale to do the right thing, i want him to take a polygraph test . i want him to tell us where she is, if he knows where she is.

    >> reporter: the 33-year-old parker, a popular bartender was last seen dropping off the twins at smith's home november 17th , the same day the couple appeared fighting over an engagement ring on a taped episode of "the people's court." smith's newly hired lawyers faced reporters tuesday, defending his client's refusal to take a polygraph.

    >> it's a damned if you do and daned if you don't scenario taking the polygraph. we have no witnesses, we have no dna, we have no suggestion of anything except somebody with a history that people don't like.

    >> reporter: a long history. smith was dishonorably discharged from the marines in 2003 , after he was court-martials and convicted of drug possession and domestic violence . according to police reports the victim of that domestic violence was smith's second wife, shannon, who died just a few months later in what was ruled an accidental drug overdose . in the '90s, smith was charged with a number of crimes including burglary, trespassing, and aggravated battery , but was only convicted of battery, serving ten days in jail. with michelle , the relationship was described as rocky.

    >> i felt somebody grab me, and yank me around.

    >> reporter: in 2009 she sought a restraining order against smith when the twins were just infants. it was never granted, citing a lack of evidence. now two years later, parker is missing, and her twins, too young to even understand, are missing their mother . and those children are with their grandmother, michelle 's mother , this morning. she says she intends to seek temporary custody of those kids while this investigation continues, and in terms of their investigation, matt, authorities say in the past few days, not much is new. back to you.

    >> janet shamlian , thank you very much. mark know jaime and rajan joshi are the attorneys representing dale smith . good morning to both of you.

    >> good morning.

    >> child protective services comes in last night and take the dwinz away, 3 years old, a boy and a girl. what was the reason they gave your client or you for taking those children out of his custody?

    >> well, we still haven't received that. we had a suspicion they were going to do this in the middle of the night , the night before, and actually went, i actually went to the house at about 2:00 in the morning and they were down the street, so we thought something was up, didn't like the way it smelled. shooed them away, and they had these subpoenas on 3 1/2-year-old children who would be under contempt of court if they didn't appear, so the 3 1/2-year-olds to give a statement, although they had already given statements previously. so it smelled fishy, we thought something was up.

    >> clearly this is connection with the fact your client, dale smith , has been named the primary suspect in the disappearance of his ex-fiance. have police told you exactly why they have made that distinction?

    >> no, they haven't given any specifics and to our knowledge there is no evidence other than conjecture and speculation. you know, you have the basic reason, because he refuses to take a polygraph, which most people should not take polygraphs. they're not even reliable and not one court in the country accepts them as reliable.

    >> let me argue it from a court of public opinion perspective here, mark, and if my wife, the mother of my children, were missing and i knew i had absolutely nothing to do with it, i might take a polygraph just to clear my name, so police could move in the right direction to find the mother of my children. how would you argue that?

    >> well, very simple. they're not reliable. they're not scientifically reliable. if they were, one court in the entire country would accept it. we watched so much trash tv thinking that polygraphs are the end all and be all of whether somebody is telling the truth or not.

    >> is your client cooperating with police right now? is he still talking to investigators?

    >> not right now but he was very cooperative in the beginning. he actually talked to them three times, went there voluntarily, and it seems like his cooperation actually you know is working against him.

    >> your client has a troubling resume, let me go through a little of this, dishonorably discharged from the military, convictions for drug possession , arrest for burglary, trespassing and aggravated battery and michelle tried to get a restraining order taken out against him, unsuccessfully i should mention. what is it about dale smith i don't know that would help me understand him better?

    >> the one thing about dale smith he's changed his life around, he's working, a productive member of society, he's taking care of his children, paying child support . ever since the mother has been gone he's been a wonderful father to the children, and very caring and actually has been wanting to have people come in and look for her.

    >> he was, according to most reports that i've read, the last person to see his ex-fiance, michelle . what does he think happened to her?

    >> he's not the last person to see her. whoever abducted her or whoever did something with her was the last person. they left, we know from a timed video, from a neighbor, that she pulled in to his place at 3:18 that afternoon. at 4:30, he was at his father's place. if you run a time line on this, it's physically impossible for him to have done what is being suggested. they lived clear across town, there were two vehicles involved, and in an hour and 12 minutes, he was supposed to, with the children present, to have met her, killed her, disposed of the body, gone clear across town, dropped off one vehicle, scraped off all the lettering on the vehicle, then brought the vehicle back and then ended up at his parents at 4:30, an hour and 12 minutes later.

    >> we'll await further development nbs ts in the case. mark nejame and rajan joshi thank you very much.

    >> thank you.

TODAY staff and wire
updated 11/30/2011 3:19:01 PM ET 2011-11-30T20:19:01

A day after the Florida Department of Children and Families took custody of Dale Smith Jr.’s young twins, a judge ruled that the children must be returned to their father, who is the only suspect in the disappearance of his ex-fiance.

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Michelle Parker, 33, has been missing since Nov. 17, when she was last seen dropping off her 3-year-old twins with Smith around 2 p.m., shortly after an episode of “The People’s Court’’ involving the couple had aired. Smith, 40, was named as the prime suspect by Orlando police in the case Monday. Tuesday afternoon, his children were removed by the state.

Video: Attorneys: Timeline clears ex-finance in missing-mom case (on this page)

Joe Iuzzolino, an attorney for the Florida Department of Children and Families, told the judge that Smith had displayed abusive and criminal behavior on multiple occasions since 1992 that included him striking Parker in front of the children in 2009.

But with no evidence that Smith had abused the children, Turner wasn't persuaded that they should be removed from his care. The children have been living with Smith and his parents since the 33-year-old Parker disappeared.

"I don't think incidents that happened years ago constitute a pattern," the judge said.  

Smith’s attorneys, Mark NeJame and Rajan Joshi, told TODAY Wednesday that they were not told why exactly the children were removed from his home by the Department of Children and Families. The 3 1/2-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, were reportedly questioned by police and stayed overnight with Parker’s mother. An emergency custody hearing was then set for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in juvenile court.

Story: Missing woman's sister: 'I'm not surprised' ex is a suspect

As to Parker's disappearance, the judge said: "I can speculate like everyone else what's happened to Miss Parker. But there's no evidence."

Parker's mother, Yvonne Stewart, wiped away tears after the hearing and said that they would work with Smith and his attorneys to figure out a plan in which she could visit the children. She briefly hugged Smith after the hearing.

"I hugged Dale to tell him that my grandbabies — I want to be able to see them," Stewart said. "And I hope we can work something out because they're so important to me and my family. He said he would work it out with us."

Around the time of the hearing, authorities used divers, boats and a K-9 unit to search the lake. It's close to the last location Parker was known to use her cell phone.

Smith’s attorneys believe that time constraints made it impossible for Smith to have been involved with Parker’s disappearance. A time-stamped video showed Parker at Smith’s home at 3:18 p.m. on Nov. 18 and by 4:30 p.m., Smith was at his father’s home, NeJame claimed. Parker’s Hummer sport utility vehicle was found abandoned by police on the other side of town from her home with decals from her mobile tanning business removed from the windows. Smith couldn't have killed Parker, disposed of her body, driven across town to drop off one vehicle, scraped off the lettering on her car and returned to his father’s home in just over an hour, according to NeJame.

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

“If you run a timeline on this, it’s physically impossible for him to have done what is being suggested,’’ NeJame said.

Smith has not been told why he is the primary suspect in the case, according to his attorneys, and has refused to take a polygraph test.

“They haven’t given any specifics, and to our knowledge there’s no evidence other than conjecture and speculation,’’ NeJame said. “You have the basic reason — because he refuses to take a polygraph. Most people should not take polygraphs. They’re not even reliable, (and) not one court in the country accepts them as reliable.

“We watch so much trash TV thinking that polygraphs are the end-all and be-all (about) whether someone is telling the truth.’’

Lauer asked Joshi if Smith was assisting authorities in their search. “Not right now, but he was very cooperative in the beginning,’’ Joshi said. “He actually talked to them three times. It seems like his cooperation is actually working against him.’’

Florida mom Michelle Parker, who went missing on November 17.

Smith’s troubled past has come to light in the wake of Parker’s disappearance. In 1996, Smith joined the U.S. Marine Corps, and in 2001 he was court-martialed and found guilty of drug and domestic battery charges. He was dishonorably discharged as a private in 2003. In the 1990s, he was charged with burglary, trespassing and aggravated battery, but was only convicted of battery, serving 10 days in jail. His second wife, Shannon, died of what was ruled an accidental drug overdose.

In 2009, Parker attempted to obtain a restraining order against him, but it was not granted due to lack of evidence. The episode of “The People’s Court’’ in which the two appeared to dispute a $5,000 engagement ring illustrated a tumultuous history, as Parker alleges that Smith has a drinking problem and had put his hands on her in a violent manner. Smith has put all of that behind him, said his attorneys.

“The one thing about Dale Smith is he has changed his life around,’’ Joshi said. “He is now working, a productive member of society, he is taking care of his children, (and) paying child support. Ever since the mother has been gone, he has been a wonderful father to the children, very caring, and actually has been wanting to have people come in and look for her.’’

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive


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