TODAY   |  December 05, 2011

Family of Dale Smith’s ex-wife speaks out

The family of Shannon Collins, former wife of Dale Smith who died 10 years ago, is shedding light on the prime suspect in the disappearance of Michelle Parker, saying he was abusive.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> details on the man identified as the prime suspect in the disappearance of a florida mother, michelle parker. lillia luciano is here with more.

>> reporter: good morning to you, ann. michelle parker was reported missing 18 days ago today when she didn't show up to her bartending shift here at the barn. now this parking lot serves as a gathering site for rescue crews. few questions have been answered in terms of her disappearance, but we are learning a lot more about the man police say is the only suspect in this case. 33-year-old michelle parker disappeared on the same day she was seen on a taped episode of "the people's court" fighting with her ex-fiance over an engagement ring .

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

>> reporter: police have searched on land and underwater finding no trace of the missing mother of three.

>> that's when she came home from college.

>> reporter: over 300 miles away the collins family said michelle 's disappearance reopened a painful wound. the link, dale smith , michelle 's ex, and according to police the only suspect in her disappearance.

>> he's the link and unfortunately he has linked our families through crisis.

>> reporter: dale smith was married to april collins ' sister-in-law, shannon . records show she died of an ecstacy overdose in april of 2001 after a night of partying in orlando . smith was not there that night. in fact he was in jail serving time for a different incident involving shannon . the collins family says shannon was partying with dale's closest friends and they still have questions surrounding her death. shannon was 26 years old and living in orlando with dale smith 's parents. the two met in 1999 when dale was a u.s. marine in north carolina . they married soon after. that's when shannon 's family says smith became violent.

>> one, the physical and mental abuse that he gave to her, she was -- she was pretty upset. she had never been treated like that by anyone.

>> reporter: on september 15th of 2000 , shannon was treated at a south carolina hospital for head injuries and smith was arrested for criminal domestic battery.

>> i remember when she came home there was a cut on her head, and her feet were cut up. and it was through some concrete where she had been -- i don't know if she was dragged or what, but her feet were bloody.

>> reporter: in a military court smith was convicted of domestic battery and drug possession and was dishonorably discharged from the maerps. when shannon died, smith was still serving time for both charges. that was not the first time he had run-ins with the law. in 1992 he pled no contest to attempted aggravated battery after a fight in orlando . he was given two years probation. in 1997 he pleaded guilty to battery charges and served jail time. in 2009 michelle parker filed a restraining order against dale smith which a judge later resolved.

>> if i'd have known more about this guy before, he'd have never stepped in the house, let alone seen my sister.

>> reporter: now ten years after shannon 's death, the collins are coming forward to shed light on the man linked to parker's disappearance. smith denies any involvement.

>> our hearts go out to michelle 's family. with shannon , we knew where she was. she was brain dead on life support , but she was in a hospital bed and we could go to her. i can't imagine what they're going through.

>> reporter: we reached out to dale smith 's attorney for comment, but received no response. ann.

>> all right, lilia luciano , thank