Harris, along with FBI special agent Marc Veazey and Walker County sheriff’s lead investigator Walt Hensley, kept Theresa Parker’s entire file on flash drives and readily available when, and if, new information and leads came to light.
Harris, Veazey and Hensley kept the flash drives containing the files on their key chains. “We just kept it with us the whole time,” Harris said.
Theresa Parker was a 911-dispatch operator in LaFayette when she disappeared on March 22, 2007. Her estranged husband, Sam Parker, a LaFayette police officer, was convicted of her murder in September 2009 and sentenced to life in prison.
The drives included Theresa Parker’s entire case file, as well as her dental records, which proved crucial when her remains were discovered Sept. 20 by a farmer near the Chattooga River, one mile from the Alabama-Georgia state line.
Once Harris was made aware of the jawbone found on the site, he sent information from the flash drive to Geor-gia chief medical examiner Chris Sperry at the crime lab in Atlanta.
The file also included pictures of Theresa Parker smiling and her medical X-rays, so Sperry was able to match the jawbone.
Harris, who has been investigating the case since its inception in March 2007, has seen various skeletal remains since then that have came up negative.
According to Harris, remains brought to his attention have included human and animal, including dogs, bears and deer, and were ruled out very easily.
“We received calls from other states in the U.S. who were always thinking of Theresa,” Harris said.
The flash drives containing the case file was always readily available to compare to the potential leads Harris and crew were receiving.
The case file was available “whenever someone in law enforcement needed it,” Harris said.
“It has definitely been the biggest step forward since the trial,” Harris said of the discovery of Theresa Parker’s remains.
Taking time to know for sure
Harris said anthropologists will most likely have to take extra time to study the remains to learn of the manner of death that Theresa experienced. It may be very difficult. “We have got to try,” Harris said.
Harris said there is no time stamp on determining the cause of death.
“Budget cuts makes it take even longer,” Harris said of the crime lab analysis.
Harris said the jawbone did in fact have Theresa’s teeth intact, which aided in determing the identity of the re-mains.
A team effort
Harris, who has worked numerous murders and death investigations that have also coincided with the Theresa Parker investigation, said investigators would drop what investigations they were doing at the time and pick up the case whenever new information was made concerning Theresa Parker.
“We can always make time for Theresa,” Harris said.
Harris said the Theresa Parker case was a team effort.
“I was made to look good by a bunch of other people,” Harris said.
Harris said a number of people were instrumental in the case, including Walker County sheriff’s Maj. Mike Freeman, Walker sheriff’s detective Sgt. Burt Cagle, Walker sheriff’s lead investigator Walt Hensley, Walker sher-iff’s investigator David Gilleland and Anthony Gilleland, FBI special agent Marc Veazey, Walker sheriff’s investiga-tor Donnie Phillips, Floyd County district attorney and lead prosecutor Leigh Patterson, Floyd County assistant district attorney Natalie Staats, and district attorney’s office investigator Scott Weaver.
“When Leigh Patterson prosecutes a case, she jumps in with both feet,” Harris said. “She is the best I ever, ever worked with.”
Harris said Sam Parker’s defense attorneys, public defender David Dunn and assistant public defender Doug Woodruff, were complete professionals.
After Theresa Parker’s family was notified, Harris next contacted Dunn and Woodruff on the discovery of the remains.
“David Dunn and Doug Woodruff have conducted themselves with the utmost professionalism and courtesy with us, and that is the prosecution team, and they deserve the same thing from us,” Harris said of contacting Sam Parker’s defense team about the finding of Theresa’s remains.