The mother of missing Florida woman Michelle Parker, 34, spoke out Friday about her concern for her grandchildren as a new review of the evidence pointed back to where authorities first looked — Dale Smith II, Parker’s 40-year-old ex-fiance and the father of her 4-year-old twins.
Parker’s mother, Yvonne Stewart, and sister, Lauren Erickson, spoke to TODAY’s Ann Curry about the condition of Parker’s children since her disappearance last November. “They are not the same children that they were six months ago, I’ll tell you that,” Stewart said. “They have a flat look on their face, they always ask about their mom, they aren’t real happy sometimes to go home. It’s just heart-wrenching.”
Stewart does not get to see her grandchildren as often as she would like, because their custody remains with Smith, named a person of interest in the case. The twins turned 4 just a couple of days ago, and neither Stewart nor Erickson got to see them. The family does not communicate with Smith directly and instead speak to him through his lawyer.
Stewart says she’s only seen her grandchildren three times this year, and that “it’s not enough, and there’s no grandparent rights laws in the state of Florida. You need to seriously consider people in situations like ours that we should have court-mandated visitation. I’m not asking for custody, but I’m asking to be a part of their lives. That’s what Michelle would want.”Story: Family scales back search for missing mom
‘People’s Court’ appearance
Parker vanished last November, the day she and Smith appeared on “The People’s Court” to argue over a $5,000 engagement ring, which she was ordered by the court to pay half of. “[Smith] gets pretty malicious and vindictive,” she told the court that day. “He said that he wanted his ring, so I took it off, and I threw it at him.”
The last known image of Parker was taken from surveillance cameras at a drive-through hours before she disappeared. Her iPhone was then found in an Orange County lake and her Hummer SUV was discovered abandoned at a mall a day after her disappearance.Story: Divers conclude search of lake for Orlando mom
Smith has always been a person of interest in the case, though police have never formerly charged him. Stewart said, “It’s really difficult for me to have the underlying fear that he is responsible for Michelle being missing and knows where she is and won’t tell me.”
Police chief Paul Rooney of the Orlando Police Department said, “This case, we do have a very, very serious person of interest. We all know that. We’ve had this person of interest from day one, and all we need to do is fit that missing piece of the puzzle.” A new police panel made up from investigators all over the state gathered to look at clues this past Thursday.Video: Missing woman’s iPhone found
“They had 45 experts from all over the country,” Stewart said. “They know how to crack cases, and we’re gonna find that missing dot.”
Dale Smith has denied any involvement. His lawyer said Smith “remains concerned for Parker, the mother of his children.”
Parker’s sister Lauren Erickson told TODAY that she hopes Smith isn’t the person behind her sister’s disappearance, saying, “it would be very unfortunate to have those children grow up and be told one day that their mother disappeared because of their father.”
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