He told his former wife that he would kill her and “they would never find your body.”
Police had been called at least twice because Sam and Theresa Parker had been fighting. In both instances, Sam Parker was described as intoxicated and enraged.
On Monday, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that both those incidents, as well as many others, were relevant in determining if Sam Parker had a motive to kill his wife and hide her body.
The high court’s ruling upholds the 2009 murder conviction of the former LaFayette police officer.
“We have waited a long time for this opinion,” said Floyd County District Attorney Leigh Patterson.
“This is a unanimous opinion and affirms what we did at trial.”
According to the evidence presented at trial:
In 2007, Sam Parker, a LaFayette Police Department sergeant and honorably discharged U.S. Marine, had been married to Theresa Parker for 16 years.
She was a 911 dispatcher in Walker County and his third wife. He had a history of drinking and violence and although they reconciled over Christmas in 2006, Theresa Parker decided to leave him for good in March 2007.
The weekend of March 24, Theresa Parker had planned to finish moving into an apartment in Fort Oglethorpe.
She never got to finalize that move.
That weekend she disappeared.
At about 2 a.m. on March 22, Sam Parker called Harbin Chaffin, who had also worked at the police department.
In court, Chaffin testified Parker told him he had “shot Theresa through the head” and he had put her body in a place where they would never find her.
Friends and family familiar with the tumultuous relationship quickly became worried.
The subsequent investigation eventually led several members of the Floyd County District Attorney’s office up to Walker County.
Patterson was assigned the case after the local district attorney recused himself.
She was accompanied by Assistant District Attorney Natalee Staats, investigator Scott Weaver and Director of the Victim Witness Assistance Program Beth Dabbs to do what few in Georgia had done — successfully prosecute a murder case with no body.
It took many months of hard work but Sam Parker was indicted for murder in February 2008. In September 2009, a jury found Sam Parker guilty of the malice murder of Theresa Parker, making false statements and violating an oath by a public officer. He was sentenced to life in prison.
At the time of his trial in 2009, Theresa Parker’s whereabouts remained unknown.
Patterson quoted an appeals court ruling in the infamous Charles Manson case from the 1970s: “The fact that a murderer may successfully dispose of the body of the victim does not entitle him to an acquittal. That is one form of success for which society has no reward.”
On Sept. 10, 2010, a year after the trial, a farmer cutting corn in Chattooga County after a series of floods literally stumbled upon a human jawbone.
Other than a dab of DNA evidence presented at trial, that jawbone turned out to be the first tangible physical evidence of Theresa Parker’s demise.
As more of her remains were found in the area it not only added to the proof that she was murdered but also validated those years of work.
“Absolutely, it justified what we did. She didn’t have any enemies. We only had one person with a motive — Sam Parker,” Patterson said. “It validated everything. It was the hardest case I’ve ever tried in my life.”
Despite the fact that Theresa Parker’s remains had been found, Sam Parker appealed his conviction to the high court.
His appeal stated the trial court made several errors, including that the judge admitted similar transaction evidence — evidence that in this case showed a pattern of violent behavior.
The evidence was especially damaging to Sam Parker because it showed violent behavior toward a previous wife, Theresa Parker’s family and the victim herself.
The high court ruled the similar evidence had merit.
“In each of the four similar transactions admitted in this case, appellant engaged in violent, threatening, and controlling behavior toward his then wife or other family members,” the opinion states. “Here, the incidents were sufficiently similar and the trial court’s factual findings were not clearly erroneous. We find no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s admission of this evidence.”
Sam Parker’s attorney, Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Public Defender David Dunn could not be reached for comment Monday.
Now, Patterson said, she expects Sam Parker will be in prison for the rest of his natural life.
According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, Sam Parker is currently serving his sentence in Long State Prison in South Georgia.