LaFAYETTE, Ga. — Walker County 911 operator Rhonda Knox received a call from her friend Theresa Parker’s cell phone early on March 22, 2007, but when she answered, no one spoke.
“It was still connected,” she said Wednesday on the third and final day of pretrial hearing in Walker County Superior Court. “I listened, said ‘hello’ several times and then I heard a click.
“I just wanted her to be OK. I had a feeling like something wasn’t right,” Ms. Knox said.
Mrs. Parker was last heard from on March 21, 2007. Her husband, former LaFayette police officer Sam Parker, is charged with murder in her disapearance, along with three other felonies. Mrs. Parker’s body has not been found.
Public Defender David Dunn on Wednesday asked Judge Jon “Bo” Wood to exclude evidence about an exterior search of the Parker property triggered by Ms. Knox’s worried state.
Ms. Knox testified that Mrs. Parker said she and her husband were divorcing and that she was sometimes afraid of him.
Other witnesses testified this week that Mr. Parker was violent on numerous occasions.
Ms. Knox said she tried to call her friend many times on March 22 and grew worried. She called and asked a friend, Shane Green, then a Walker County deputy sheriff, to check on Mrs. Parker at the couple’s home on Cordell Avenue in LaFayette.
Deputy Green testified that he and another deputy went to the house but didn’t find anyone. They looked in the garage for Mrs. Parker’s car, he said.
They saw Mr. Parker’s LaFayette police car in the garage and his truck and boat outside, but Mrs. Parker’s Toyota 4Runner was not there, Deputy Green said.
Mr. Dunn said the visit amounted to an unlawful, unconstitutional “search” because they went beyond their authority when they peered into the two-car garage, which is separate from the Parkers’ trailer-style home. Any testimony from that search should be omitted from the trial, he said.
“My contention is the officers went well beyond what they were authorized to do,” Mr. Dunn said.
But Assistant District Attorney Natalee Staats said the officers acted appropriately.
“(Ms. Knox) has every reason to be concerned,” she said. “Her friend had expressed fear, and now she can’t reach her. The officers were attempting to locate someone at the residence. The best way to find out if Theresa is there is to see if her car is there. If her car is there, but she doesn’t answer the door, that may be something to worry about.”
The question of the 4Runner’s location is important because District Attorney Leigh Patterson said the vehicle was used to take Mrs. Parker to another location.
Forensic experts testified Wednesday that DNA from both Mr. and Mrs. Parker was found on the bumper of the 4Runner.
Former Georgia Bureau of Investigation forensic biologist Jessica Walker said samples taken from the bumper revealed Mrs. Parker’s blood. Other evidence that showed Mr. Parker’s DNA could have been skin or another material, she said.
The defense has also asked that evidence by cadaver-dog handlers be excluded.
Assistant Public Defender Doug Woodruff noted that the dogs did not respond to the exact place the DNA was found.
“(Search dogs) are sort of like the water witches of the canine world,” he said. “We ask the court to exclude any and all (evidence) from dogs.”