LaFayette was thrust into the national spotlight last weekend as CBS’s 48 Hours presented an entire hour about the Theresa Parker murder. The show was hyped during the previous week as revealing mysteries about the murder, but ultimately added little to what we already knew collectively from reading and watching coverage of the case.

For your convenience the entire episode is embedded below, or you can read a transcript here.

The only “mystery” revealed here is how some of the jury was unconvinced about Parker’s guilt in the case until they examined his cell phone records. Anyone who’s been around the legal system for long knows this is nothing unusual; every jury starts out unconvinced and eventually goes one way or the other unless it ends up hung.

But, lack of mystery aside, this was a solid report and we’ll give reporter Tracy Smith credit for doing a good job and pronouncing the city’s name correctly, or at least the way we say it. We did notice some stock footage mixed with video shot in LaFayette (how many years has it been since a Southern-branded locomotive rolled through town?) but it comprised only a few seconds of the nearly hour-long show.

Shots of Walker County’s rural beauty mixed in with positive comments about the community from locals portray the area as an undeveloped haven, and even reporter Smith said in a local story that she felt at home here because “everyone was so nice to us.” Sheriff Steve Wilson made an attempt to reenforce that small-town image, generically claiming to 48 Hours that LaFayette is a great place to watch your kids play high school sports.

Some locals are actually suggesting that such coverage will attract people to visit, or possibly even live, in the area and ultimately boost Walker County’s struggling economy. This isn’t just perverse thinking, but also illogical. LaFayette has been put on the national stage three times in recent years for high-profile crimes committed or tried here: the 1997 murder trial of Atlanta lawyer Fred Tokars, the Noble Crematory debacle that began eight years ago this month, and now the Sam Parker case. All three incidents brought in vanloads of reporters from around the country to LaFayette (the crematory was also visited by journalists from Japan and the BBC), but the resulting news coverage didn’t exactly make LaFayette a popular tourist destination.

Visiting journalists, lawyers, gawkers, and out-of-town law enforcement have provided a temporary boost to local businesses; CBS’s Smith shopped at Sew Cute, ate at Susie’s Sunset Cafè, and was spotted several months ago wandering the aisles of BI-LO. During a half-dozen visits she and her six-member crew did more to stimulate the local economy than the Obama Bailout plan, Civil War Tourism, and Jeff Mullis’ film production push combined. However, reports of killer police officers, child predators, and amateur crematorium operators do nothing to boost the area’s reputation. LaFayette does come across as a modern day Mayberry, but one where Barney the Deputy murdered his wife, Floyd the Barber has uncremated bodies stacked in a shed, Opie was molested by his tennis coach, and Otis the drunk sits on the city council.

There’s a huge gap between being famous and being infamous; in fact you might say the two are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Those who expect the community to benefit from criminal activities happening here should be ashamed of themselves and embarassed for what’s happened to innocent people in this county. Even more worthy of shame are those within the community whose favoritism, personal relationships, and desire to “just get along” greatly contributed to Theresa Parker’s murder and some of the other well-known local crimes.

Sam Parker worked for the LaFayette Police Department for more than two decades; a short stint in the early-80’s (no word on how or why that ended) and a longer stretch lasting from 1989 until he was fired in April 2007. During his career Parker received many commendations, rising through the ranks from patrol officer to Sergeant in less than ten years. In the same time period Parker received quite a bit of positive media coverage, being credited with everything from busting a ring of vending machine burglars to saving a baby from a burning house. Parker quickly joined an elite group within the LPD, a clique of officers who could get away with almost anything due to their friendship with police chief Dino Richardson.

Despite coming across as an exemplary law enforcement officer, Parker’s home life and relationships with his three wives were anything but ideal. As early as 1989 Parker was involved in domestic violence, beating and threatening to kill his second wife Keila Beard while on duty. Beard reported the incident to her friend Terri Morrison, wife of then city-councilman Max Morrison. Morrison approached chief Richardson and city manager David Aldridge about the incident, asking both to check into it, but according to Morrison neither man would talk to Parker and Richardson dismissed it as a personal matter between the officer and his spouse.

    “I have a little problem with the city paying Sam Parker to rough up his wife.” -Former LaFayette City Councilman Max Morrison in 1989

The city council has no direct authority to hire or fire police officers, but as a collective whole it can have considerable influence over the police chief and Department of Public Safety. Morrison, who later testified that Richardson’s agency had “poor supervision and a lack of discipline” could have put pressure on the chief through official channels or gone to the GBI but decided to let the incident go when Parker stopped harassing his wife’s friend.

LaFayette PD officers working with Parker also expressed concerns about his increasingly erratic behavior and instability. During the trial several officers (including current PR director Stacey Meeks) testified how Sam’s fascination with death, abuses of power, threats against suspects, and even drinking on the job were all ignored by chief Richardson and his superiors in the city government.

Suspicions about Sgt. Parker’s state of mind were confirmed during a 2003 incident where he fired a pistol at (or near) Theresa and threatened to kill himself while on vacation in Panama City Beach. Police there sent the officer to a mental facility for three days of observation, but after coming home he immediately returned to active duty with the LaFayette PD without so much as a slap on the wrist.

    “He made a statement that, a few weeks ago, he was wearing pajamas and eating tapioca pudding and now he is on the streets carrying a gun.” -LaFayette PD Officer Stacey Meeks

An April 2006 meeting Theresa Parker herself held with chief Richardson and sheriff Steve Wilson also went nowhere. Ms. Parker refused to press charges against her husband since an accusation of domestic violence would have put his job (and her life) on the line, but his abusive behavior, drinking problems, and the incident in Panama City were all discussed in the brief meeting. Despite having sufficient grounds to fire (or at least suspend) him, neither Wilson or Richardson – the only two men with authority over Parker’s position within the PD – took any action against their old friend. As far as anyone can tell he was never given so much as a verbal reprimand for anything he did while serving on the police force.

    “Wilson said that he was not aware of such events. Patterson asked Wilson if he had known, would he have fired Sam and Wilson said he would have.”

During the 11 months between Theresa’s meeting with law enforcement leaders and her 2007 disappearance, Sam Parker became more powerful within the LaFayette PD. Chief Richardson was dying of cancer and often absent, with no clear successor. Sergeant Parker, whose mental instability and alcohol abuse made him unfit to even own a gun, was by then the highest ranked officer in the department. At one point Parker even broke into the chief’s office and purged his employee file – possibly even spotting notes about Theresa’s meeting with the chief that might have driven him over the edge.

We don’t know for sure if Sam Parker would have ever killed his wife (or anyone else) if he had never served on the police force or had been better supervised there, but the access, authority, and attitude the LPD provided him with certainly didn’t make things any better. Parker’s years in the department had given him a sense of entitlement and untouchability, and none of the people who knew he was dangerous, including his wife, were willing (or able) to do anything about him because of his job. The leadership vacuum that formed in late 2006 meant he had no supervision or accountability, providing a perfect opportunity to murder without fear of being stopped and little risk of being caught.

Theresa Parker’s blood is on her husband’s hands, but a share of blood also goes to others in the community who enabled and encouraged his behavior. Fellow officers who did nothing, city councilmen and a mayor who tolerated Parker’s abuse and refused to replace a dying police chief, Parker’s family members who knew he was dangerous, members of the Panama City PD who misreported his arrest there, officer Ben Chaffin who helped cover up evidence, and the two law enforcement agency heads (Wilson and Richardson) who refused to discipline him; all are guilty of playing a part in the murder.

Theresa Parker’s murder isn’t the first example of local crime committed as a result of favoritism and uneven application of the rules. The Noble Crematory case, mentioned above, where 339 uncremated bodies piled up in the woods over a period of ten to twenty years, could also have been prevented or stopped much earlier if local law enforcement and state government agencies had consistently applied the same standards to everyone without favoritism.

Tri-State Crematory SignTri-State Crematory was started in 1981 by the Marshes, a prominent and wealthy (but not necessarily well-liked) African American family with ties to many of the area’s most powerful people. Ray Marsh, a descendant of Spencer Marsh (white slave owner who built the celebrated Marsh House) turned a septic tank business into a grave vault operation, then expanded into cremation.

Despite having no medical experience or even a license for his funeral services business, Marsh once ran for Walker County Coroner but was (fortunately) defeated by a handful of votes. Ray Marsh and his son, Brent, were both leaders at New Home Baptist Church, and served on the Walker DFCS board of directors. Young Brent was a star athlete at LaFayette High School and UT Chattanooga until he dropped out to take over the family business.

Clara Marsh, wife of Ray and mother of Brent, taught English in Walker schools for 30 years until she retired and served for many years as chair of the Walker County Democratic Party. She directed the Walker County Association of Educators, served on advisory boards for Northwestern Technical College and many other local organizations, and was named Citizen of the Year in 1995 by the Walker County Chamber.

Clara Marsh w/ Chamber of Commerce

In 1994, some eight years before bodies were officially discovered on the property, state officials tried to inspect the crematory but were blocked after the family contacted democratic state senator Mike Snow. Forty funeral homes who knew the facility was unlicensed still did business with the Marshes (and didn’t ask any questions) because they had the best prices around and were well known.

    “The Marshes, who were investigated by the local police in 1995 when there was a claim that body parts were seen on their property – though no search was made – exploited a loophole in Georgia law to operate without a license.”

Sheriff’s deputies, called to investigate reports of body parts seen near the site in 1995, found nothing remarkable. Sheriff Wilson reportedly had conversations in 2000 with Blossman propane truck drivers concerned about seeing piles of bodies on the site, but chose not to investigate since (in his words) it would be natural to spot a few corpses stacked up at a facility where bodies are handled and being behind wasn’t against the law. Relatives and neighbors hadn’t noticed the furnace smoking in over a decade and observed propane deliveries to the crematory were rare, but they assumed things were OK (or claimed to) because the family told them not to be concerned.

If the Marshes had been just any average family their horrific behavior would have been uncovered and put to an end shortly after it began. But because of their political connections, their friends in high places, their money, their church, and their spotless reputation, everyone in a position to intervene between the Marshes and their sad, disgusting, and immoral actions looked the other way.

    “My response was that, obviously, you’re going to find deceased bodies at a crematory much like you would at a funeral home.” -Sheriff Wilson on Reports of Piled Bodies in 2000

Even after bodies were discovered justice was never done. Brent was the only family member charged with a serious crime even though by most accounts he was between eight and eighteen years old when the abuses began. (Sheriff Wilson comes up again there, as he spoke highly of Clara and Ray during court proceedings and insisted they had no knowledge of the 300+ dead bodies stacked up in their back yard.)

Citizen of the YearFuneral homes who overlooked irregularities paid off victims’ families for $36 million, and the Marsh family negotiated its way out of having to testify when a private lawsuit against them was settled for $3.5 million pulled from the pockets of Farm Bureau Insurance customers. Attorneys in both cases were in a position to make the Marshes provide answers to their victims, but took settlements instead to maximize the amount of settlement money. (Prosecutors took about 1/3 of the settlement, Clara Marsh and her children took $100,000 each from their insurance company, and family members of the abused were given about $4,000.)

The government’s case against Brent Marsh was closed when he accepted a plea bargain, agreeing to apologize by letter, spend 4-1/2 to 12 years in prison, and spend the rest of his life on parole. Despite being handed a slam-dunk case, local prosecutor Buzz Franklin worked out the deal in order, he said, to save the state from sinking hundreds of thousands of dollars into a trial and to quickly give victim families closure (but no answers). That deal also, as a side benefit, closed the door to testimony that might have incriminated the elder Marshes, Clara and Ray, or revealed damning evidence of why so many government agencies and law enforcement officials somehow never noticed what had been happening out in the open for more than a decade.

    “I can’t give you the answers that you want, but I will stand up here like a man. And I will not cry when I go into that cell. I will not whimper.” -Brent Marsh During Sentencing

Senator Mike Snow lost his next election as voters realized he had played a major role in preventing the crematory from being inspected, but other local leaders who bear some responsibility for the crematory, for the murder of Theresa parker, and for other crimes continue to serve, continue to win elections, continue to be reappointed to their committee chairs or board memberships, and continue to behave in ways that benefit their friends and powerful connections at everyone else’s expense.

Politicians and other unelected government officials have a duty to not only enforce the law, but to apply rules and laws evenly to everyone in all levels of society. Failure to do so encourages the kinds of behavior displayed by Sam Parker, Brent Marsh, and others who were made exempt from the standards everyone else is expected to adhere to. Inconsistent law enforcement also gives people an idea that the law doesn’t really matter and provides them with an excuse to ignore it. Eventually all this leads to anarchy. Members of government on any level should be held accountable for distorting the law to play favorites because of the impact such behavior has on the law, on society, and on individual lives.

Just as government leaders are responsible for holding citizens accountable for their actions, citizens too are responsible for making sure leaders behave appropriately. Voters who condone and even support corrupt, incompetent, or immoral politicians are just as complicit in the results of their actions as the politicians themselves are. When we reelect someone who has shown himself (or herself) undeserving we enable them to make bigger and more spectacular messes, extreme examples of that being the Noble Crematory and Theresa Parker’s murder.

In November residents of LaFayette reelected teacher Norm Hodge to the city council, despite his being arrested a year earlier for smelling of alcohol at a high school football game in Dalton. Those same voters, many of whom attend First Baptist Church with councilman Hodge, came out in record numbers to vote against liquor by the drink, but the morality that motivated so many of them fell short when it came time to hold an elected leader responsible for his actions.

Mr. Hodge has since been joined in his liquor-by-the-drink research by fellow councilman Bill Craig, who was arrested for DUI in late January. Despite that, Craig will probably be reelected again in 2011 because he, like Norm Hodge, is a nice ol’ feller who knows lots of folks. That’s essentially all it takes to receive a lifetime job with LaFayette or Walker County, courtesy of the uninformed and FiSDOP’s who’d rather have a corrupt or incompetent friend in charge than a moral or intelligent stranger.

Obviously drunk driving doesn’t equal the heinous crimes committed by Sam Parker or Brent Marsh, but it does represent a moral failing and lack of self control present among those charged with enforcing the city’s rules and regulations. Unelected leaders and their family members have also recently been involved in criminal activity, notably LaFayette police chief Freeman’s daughter in law who was arrested for shoplifting at Walmart Christmas Eve and Walker Department of Environmental Health Manager Jimmy Ray Pinion, who was arrested last week for trying to pick up a prostitute in Chattanooga.

No person is perfect; we live in a corrupt and fallen world, and we should be quick to personally forgive those people who make mistakes. But personal forgiveness doesn’t mean we have to overlook behavior from our political leaders that indicates their corruption or disregard for the law.

The best way to honor the memories of Theresa Parker, the 339 innocents whose corpses were desecrated, and other victims of easily preventable crime, is to hold the officials charged with enforcing the law responsible for their personal and professional failures. If we hope to have any kind of future we need to demand higher standards for those who sit in authority above us – and vote accordingly.

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  1. A few notes about this post..

    We did extensive research to back up the points being made. That was difficult as data before 1988 is sparse, and much of the newer news archives have sections missing. We were unable to find anything in The Messenger about Clara Marsh winning Citizen of the Year in 95 except for the linked piece from Rome and a mention of it in during the 96 award photo we used. Many of the older photos of the Marshes, Sam Parker, Dino Richardson, etc. were apparently archived with an old photocopier that couldn’t duplicate grays so many faces were just black globs rendering photos unusable.

    We did find one archived paper from 1989 that has Sam Parker and Clara Marsh on the front page in separate photos for unrelated stories. That one is available here: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=F7kmAAAAIBAJ&sjid=6EQDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5082,5817150 . It shows how well regarded both were at one time, but there was really no place in the article to use it.

    Also interesting: On February 20th the Marsh House will have an exhibit about the African American Marshes and their contribution to the area. We can assume, however, that the most famous Marshes of any race (Clara, Ray, and Brent) will not be part of the display. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2010/feb/06/black-history-tribute-set-at-marsh-house/

    And a note about Steve Wilson… When we started writing this, there were no plans to include anything about the sheriff except for mentioning his quotes in the 48 Hours story. But the more research we did the more often his name came up. We’re about following the truth no matter where it goes, even when facts force us to reconsider our assumptions about things. This wasn’t meant to be a “hit piece” on anyone, and any official who has a problem with the way they’re mentioned in this post should have been more careful about their actions that led up to the events detailed.

    Thanks so much for your readership.

    — The LaFayette Underground

  2. “LaFayette does come across as a modern day Mayberry, but one where
    Barney the Deputy murdered his wife, Floyd the Barber has uncremated
    bodies stacked in a shed, Opie was molested by his tennis coach, and
    Otis the drunk sits on the city council.” Wow. I loved this line, and I can’t believe I didn’t write it! But you’re forgetting about Opie’s bus driver, who hires the GBI guy to kill her husband. I was just a kid at the time, but that also made national news. I would definitely like to know more about that story, since the bus driver in question is practically my mother-in-law. She spent eight years in prison and insists it was all a conspiracy by the corrupt cops and politicians in this town, and while she can be very nice and I’d like to believe she is innocent, she is also no stranger to crazy. Her son, my sweetie, says the proof was on videotape and the GBI guy who was on the Theresa Parker CBS special was actually the guy who was hired as the “hitman”. Anyway, I would like to know more about this, and I’m guessing you guys have more resources than I have as far as digging up dirt. But it’s a kind of tough one for me…who to believe? The kooky middle-aged woman, or this city’s government officials? All I know is if she’s guilty, I sure don’t want to get on her bad side! :)

  3. Say what you will about Sam Parker. Sam was tried and convicted long before the trial. Public pressure for a suspect and media coverage was Sam’s only jury. No murder weapon, no crime scene, no body. How can you convict someone of murder if you can’t prove the supposed “victim” is even dead? The only “witnesses” at the trial were character witnesses. “Sam drug me across glass!” “Sam handcuffed me to the bed!” “Sam said he could hide a body where nobody could find it!” “Sam said he would kill me if I told anyone he killed Theresa!” Sam said, Sam said, Sam said. People, show me something! Show me enough of her blood that she could not have possibly survived, I’ll give that one to you. Show me a body! Show me a murder weapon with some DNA on it! Show me where this crime was supposedly committed at! Show me ANY tangible evidence that Mrs. Parker is even dead! The only thing the prosecution had was the “paid” testimony of Chafin, a testimony the jury didn’t believe from the first. Chafin was a joke, and the trial was a joke. When T. Parker walks back into town one day, let’s hope Sam is still alive to see it. Some people will have a lot of explaining to do.

  4. So let me get this straight. You, personally, can toss every single thing that was said on the stand be EVERY witness or person called to trial regarding Mr. Parker as being verbally, physically, and emotionally abusive? You really think that his former wife, Keila, was lying about it ALL? Or…maybe even worse…you feel that it should not be addressed and that particular behavior should go undisclosed being that you did not actually SEE Mr. Parker DO those things? What do you think domestic violence offenders do? Do you think they announce their “behind closed door” actions and words or is it quite possible (now HERE’S a thought) that the offender appears just the opposite of violent when in public? Hmmmm…I’ll take JUST THE OPPOSITE for $500. Ding, Ding!!!

  5. If Theresa Parker walks back into town one day, I’ll eat my own hair.

  6. I think I’m with you on this one, Jessica. That would be one of those mind freak moments if/when that ever happens. I am absolutely INTRIGUED by this blog, though. Kudos! I LOVE it! I’m not sure if anyone has posted links to it yet in my facebook group, but I’m gonna post it anyways…maybe it’ll shake things up a bit.
    I remember not knowing very much about the Sam Parker case at the time it was going on because I was just a high school kid and frankly [&& sadly], didn’t care at the time…but reading this and watching the 48 hours has kind of sparked an interest. I believe my father worked with him on the police force back in the day. I may talk to him about it.

  7. If Theresa Parker walks back into town, I’ll become a Dodgers fan. And THAT, my friend, is NEVER gonna’ happen.

  8. We was thinking that Lafayette isn’t anything like Mayberry. First, there’d be a all out fist fight down at the rotary club amongst all those fine ladies for who got to be Aunt Bea. Second, we was always noticing how Ronnie Howard was always walking with a fishing pole in that show. That just wouldn’t fly in Lafayette. We hate to admit it, but the fishing just ain’t that fine in the city lake. We was fishing in there the other day when all of a sudden there was a powerful tug on the other end of our fishing line. Well, needless to say we was excited. once we got through reeling in that big one we realized that we had caught a Budweiser bottle circa 1978. We was dissapointed, but we’ll keep going back because that big one is still out there. We like to think of him as having the name “grandpappy long fins”. Finally, we was noticing that the Mayberry show always ended happy and we saw that forty some odd hours show on CBS and that show wasn’t close to being happy.

  9. Stinky, keep posting, you are very amusing and a great character for the website :D

  10. Stinky: you rock!

  11. VERY interesting read! But I will say this, I believe it is possible, more than paossible really, that the reason these jokers keep getting re-elected is because all of this “dirt”, if you will, is unknown to most voters. I know I didn’t know any of this stuff! Some of us don’t have time to do the kind of research you just did before we vote, we just go with what we know, so thank you for writing this and exposing these people! If we had this kind of journalism more readily available I truly believe LaFayette would be a better place, and for me to say that is big because I love our little town.

  12. Theresa and I were friends since 1985 and I have known Sam since the beginning of their relationship. She was so hopeful for a “good” relationship-she had been through some difficult previous relationships. She told me since he was older and a police officer she thought he would be more settled and would give her life stability. As is typical of most abusers, he lured her with charm @ 1st and made her feel safe with him. I would give anything to see Theresa “walk through the door” as someone previously posted-how heartbreaking. Sam has made that impossible by ending her life. As his abuse escalated, she was loyal and tried to protect her marriage and his reputation and job (as evidenced by her mtg with Sheriff Wilson and Dino). Justice will truly be served when Sam tells where he hid her body but that will never happen.

  13. Trish…I am so sorry for your loss. I didn’t want my “Dodgers fan” comment to be offhand & I hope you did not take it as such. I know that it would be wonderful for the friends & family of Theresa Parker to see her again. I think I was mainly addressing the insensitive idiot previously who approached this topic like Sam Parker was the victim…which, by the way, I find completely irrational & frankly just disrespectful. I hope some peace can come from the verdict that was sentenced. I know it may not bring her back, nor may it give complete justice to whom it is due, but at least a 4th wife/girlfriend/etc. will be safer knowing that Parker is behind bars. Again, my sincerest of apologies…

  14. Can anyone guess which commenter here used to be a “corrections officer” and even wrote a book about his experiences? Cops stick together – that’s part of the problem that led to Theresa’s murder in the first place. I know when you’re a soldier or a member of law enforcement you have to back each other up in bad situations, but covering the lies and offenses of another officer (or soldier, or doctor, or pastor..) is unacceptable and only does harm to your entire profession.

    — The LaFayette Underground

  15. Just found your website. You guys have done an awesome job!!!

    Nelda Johns hired a “hitman” to kill her husband several years ago. Information from the Department of Corrections website indicates she has been released.

    What was the final outcome of the charges against Hodge and the other coaches that were arrested?

  16. The final outcome was nothing, from all we can gather.

    On October 24, 2008 Whitfield county school employees called the law when the press box at Southeast smelled like alcohol during an LHS football game there. The responding Whitfield County deputy asked everyone in the room to take a breath test and found Hodge, LHS coaches Mike Dunfee and Rob Neal, and Rob’s brother Ben with alcohol in their systems. The four men were taken to LHS principal Hibbs and the school’s athletic director. Whitfield county school superintendent Brochu heard what was going on and requested that all four be arrested under the school’s no-tolerance policy. By the time they got to the sheriff’s office some 90 minutes later only one, Ben Neal, had a BAL higher than .08, the legal limit for drunk driving (Hodge was blowing a .065). They couldn’t be charged with drunk driving since none of them were driving at the time, none of them had a container of alcohol on their person so they couldn’t be charged with possession, and they didn’t cause any disruption so there wasn’t a charge of public intoxication. The only law they were charged with breaking was the school’s zero-tolerance policy, and they were bonded out for $750 shortly after taking the second test. News reports said they would be notified by mail for their court date.

    Principal Hibbs and Walker Schools superintendent Mathis both said they would conduct an internal investigation of the incident, and nothing else was ever mentioned about it again.

    Questions that remain unanswered: Were they riding on the school bus with players or students? Who paid the $750 bond (collective or each?) less than two hours after the arrest? Was there ever a court date or did Whitfield county quietly drop charges against all four? Did Walker schools actually conduct an investigation and was there any punishment at all for the three LHS coaches?

    We’ll probably never know.

    Excerpt from the Chattanooga Times Free Press:
    LaFayette High School teacher Andy Arnold said he was surprised by what he had heard but said he believed his colleagues will eventually be exonerated.

    “I’m pretty sure that evidence will show that they were not in possession of alcohol,” he said.

    Mr. Arnold also sits on the City Council with Mr. Hodge and coaches boys soccer for the high school.

    Elaine Womack, coordinator of public information for the Walker County School District said the incident was under investigation as a “personnel issue.”

    “It will be a personnel issue and of course you know personnel issues cannot be discussed,” she said.

    The Whitfield County School District also declined to comment.
    (end excerpt)

    Dead and buried. We won’t hear anything else about it unless he gets drunk and runs somebody over. The city manager works with him and under him, the school system’s attorney works for the city (under Hodge), and he has a lot of pull with FiSDOP’s because he goes to First Baptist and plays a lot of golf..

    Thanks for asking questions that require research to answer. That’s what we’re here for.

    — The LaFayette Underground

  17. Years ago a councilman man was arrested for a DUI and was forced to resign. Play fair boys. Resign!

  18. Please forgive the intrusion, but I do feel inclined to comment on a follow-up on my initial posting concerning the Sam Parker trial. According to “Wendy” I am an “insensitive idiot” who probably does not deserve an opinion on the outcome of the trial. On a posting after hers, which I assume came from the moderator of this site since it was signed off on “LU”, I was further chastised for having my opinion. I have posted my name and am not hiding behind a ficticious blog name. I was also assuming that this site was one on which all opinions were taken at face value. Apparantly, this is not the case. Please allow me to clarify my position on this subject.

    I know Sam Parker in a professional aspect only, but do consider him a friend. Do I think Sam is capable of such a crime? I think, given the right set of circumstances, anyone is capable of what Sam was accused of doing. Please do not assume I think the witnesses who were called during the trial were lying. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I believe all of the witnesses were telling the absolute truth concerning Sam Parker and his actions. All the witnesses that is, except one. Ben Chafin. Even the jury didn’t consider him a credible witness.

    Simply put, Sam was a fool. He was a fool for what he put his previous wives through and a fool for what he put Theresa through. But, sadly, Sam Parker was not on trial for being a fool. If he had been, he would have received the death penalty. Sam was on trial for murder, a crime in which there was no forensic evidence supporting the charge he was found guilty of.

    I suppose what I’m trying to comment on is the state of our current justice system more than the Sam Parker trial. As an example, you had a trial in Chattooga County in which a man killed another man, in front of witnesses, and ended up walking free. Now comes Sam Parker. I have my own opinion on whether or not Theresa is dead, but putting that aside, what forensic evidence is there to support a murder charge? It could be possible, though not probable, that Theresa could arrive unharmed. Call me an optimist, call me stupid. Better than that, call me hopeful. Hopeful for the best case scenerio. If it had been anyone else besides Sam Parker on trial for the same crime, I would be saying the same thing. The forensic evidence just wasn’t there to convict. That is my opinion. I don’t consider it to be insensitive and I’m not going to stoop to calling people names for possessing an opinion. I’m merely saying the current justice system is in dire need of an overhaul.

    Thank you for your time and patience.

  19. Robert, that is why we have a trail by jury, in front of a judge and have the appeals process, to try to ensure justice. It will never be perfect, of course. Should we let crimes go unpunished because the person who committed the murder knew how to dispose of the body well enough that nobody would find it? I think that the jury saw enough evidence, whether it was a body and blood or by deducting the fact based on other evidence, witness testimony and the fact that she had vanished and Sam Parker was clearly lying about nearly everything he said. I think it would have been a bigger failure of our justice system to not punish him for his crime just because we couldn’t find the body. I bet that is what he was counting on, hoping for, and someday, based on your statement of being hopeful, she does perhaps show up, then Sam will get out of jail and he’ll get some kind of compensation for his time in jail and he can consider time served for beating wives, brandishing and firing a weapon in public, and I am sure numerous other crimes he committed while being a police officer on and off duty. (The chances of this happening are nil since she is dead and isn’t coming back, but just for the sake of being hopeful). I am just thankful that the Parkers didn’t have any children that have to go through this, its bad enough for parents and siblings.

    Sorry you were called names, but your post did come across as being kind of a jerky response that a Sam Parker buddy might give. Thanks for clearing it up and offering a better explanation of your thoughts and feelings. I don’t think anybody meant to personally offend you, but it is is very easy to do in impersonal blog and discussion boards. I got called a d**k head yesterday. That is personally offensive no matter what, but I know that they’d never call me that to my face and that its easy to be a jerk, as I am sure I’ve appeared on here may times.

  20. yea i had a family member that supposedly was supposed to have committed suicide by hanging himself in the walker county jail but myself and the rest of the family and friends doesn’t believe he did it. I think it was an authoritive power kill, and i just hope if anyone knows anything would come forward because if one of them killed him then i don’t understand how they can even sleep at night. i just hope the gbi does the right thing and find out the truth and let the person or persons if they did kill him have to pay because they make everyone else pay for their misakes so what is the difference in the people who work inside there and i just want them to know as people start getting out of there and thinking about it and knowing anything then they probably will start talking and we are not giving up, because we are a family and we stick together. I am sure alot of people remember the Charles Cochran case, but i hope someone just comes out with the truth and don’t be a coward because something like this could happen to them or someone close to them.

  21. LU –
    I am a native son of LaFayette, now living far away. I’ve been fascinated by the articles that you’ve posted. I have a concern, however. In your zeal, you seem to to have left out some pertinent details of Mr. Hodge’s case. Most importantly, everyone that got arrested in Whitfield County had below DUI levels of alcohol in their blood. That’s a matter of record. Saying Norm was “drunk at a high school football game in Dalton” is incorrect, at least by the standards applied by the state of Georgia for what constitutes legally impaired. Perhaps, as you say, Walker County suffers from the good ol’ boy network. I can’t say as I disagree with you. Perhaps you don’t know that the situation in Whitfield County is quite possibly worse than in Walker County. I know, as I used to live there. When you exaggerate in this case, it calls into question the rest of the articles that I’ve read here. I think you’re on to something with your site, and I wish you luck. If you want to be taken seriously, you might consider reigning in a little on the vitriol.
    Good luck to you.
    P.S. Check my IP – I am, indeed, far away. I hardly know Mr. Hodge, and I have no earthly reason to shill for him. I just know a trumped-up small town flap when I see one, and that’s what he unfortunately stepped into.

  22. anon-

    Comments duly noted. Hodge was not “drunk” by legal DUI standards, at least when he took the breathalyzer test at the Whitfield sheriff’s office. But that was an hour and a half after his arrest, and the arrest was a good bit of time after the alcohol was apparently consumed. It’s not much of a stretch to assume he would have been over the legal limit at the time of his arrest, and _any_ level of alcohol in the blood or in possession is against the law on school property – a law Hodge of all people would have been well aware of. He wasn’t drunk enough for a DUI charge but he was drunk enough for an alcohol on school grounds charge, so that might be just splitting hairs. But I will try to be more careful and explain things through in the future. (Ben Neal was actually over the legal limit, so one of them _can_ be considered fully drunk.)

    The original post has been edited. In the interest of accuracy and fairness, “for being drunk at a high school football game” is now “for smelling of alcohol at a high school football game” .

    Thanks for your readership and the kind comments, correction is always welcomed as well.

    — The LaFayette Underground.

  23. Crap! LaFayette sounds like a scary place!

  24. How about writing something on the corruption engaged in by our own judges in Walker County….namely, Bo Woods, who I know for a fact accepts bribes for lighter sentences….I was in jail with a guy who had 5, count them 5, FELONY drug charges. His mom paid the lawyer 2500 dollars who in turn gave a good portion of that to Bo Woods, who then gave the guy 45 days in rehab. Or perhaps the fact that Judge Woods has been pulled over several times in the past for DUI yet if you try and find records of any of them, they don’t exist. It seems in our little town it’s not how much justice you deserve, it’s how much you can afford.

  25. Does anyone remember the story about an elementary girl baci around 1978-1980 that was in foster care. She was my friend. I can only remember her first name and I can’t be sure about that. I believe her name was Lisa. The last thing I remember she said to me was “we are alot alike”. We both had been in foster care and desperately wanted to be loved. Anyway, I lost touch with her. One day, I remember hearing some teachers talking about how she died becuase someone injected her with Drano in the Chickamauga K-Mart parking lot. Does anyone know anything about this? Please help me set my mind at ease. Thank You.

  26. Samantha-
    The child’s name was Lisa Ann Millican. She was from LaFayette originally, but was kidnapped from a foster home in Rome in 1983 and killed at Little River Canyon in Alabama. Her murderer was originally given the death penalty but the sentence was commuted to life in prison. Wish I could give some information that would ease your mind, but your information (except for the location) is accurate.

    These links provide more detail, perhaps a bit more than most people would be comfortable with, so read at your own risk:



    — The LaFayette Underground

  27. VOTE NO TO RETAIN THE JUDGES IN GEORGIA AND PARTICULARLY LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN JUDICIAL. Save your children and families….here is our Facebook site to remove these criminals by VOTING NO TO RETAIN!

  28. I share no particular fondness for the judiciary at large in this district, but is it actually that easy to remove them from their positions? Once power is attained, the holder is very reluctant to relinquish it for any reason (the right thing to do, no one wants them there…etc.).

    OK. You (we) get them relieved of duty to be replaced by……? Probably some pretty decent, level-headed individuals (hopefully). How long will these replacements remain neutral and fair(blind, as justice should be…)? A month? A year? Forever? Not likely if, not just local history, but history in general holds true.

    Power corrupts even the strongest.

  29. Well said Alicia, unfortunately…

  30. So now we have her body…everybody who wanted to be a moron and say that she ran off to Mexico leaving her family behind can shut up. Now maybe Sam will actually fess up. Her family has closure now, and maybe his family too. Maybe the Sheriff can now answer to why he didn’t protect her when she asked for help and apologize to her family for not doing so.

  31. You know what? I think that the Sheriff probably already feels guilty for not doing something about it. I don’t think he’s an evil man, and I am sure he’s probably tortured by it that he didn’t get her help when she asked. It seems like he’s mentioning the Lord Almighty a lot more these days…perhaps his illness has caused him to see how valuable life is…I hope that he’s also able to find peace in this…and that he can find forgiveness for himself…

  32. I think we all should try to get along, make changes for the good, and accept other for who they are. We are all unique and see things in a different light. Speaking of peace, I think we should take a page from the Native American culture and pass the peace pipe to left.

    We as a community get nowhere being negative.

  33. I would definitely like to hear what Mr. Digges has to say on this one:
    “When T. Parker walks back into town one day, let’s hope Sam is still alive to see it. Some people will have a lot of explaining to do.”
    Who has the explaining to do NOW, Mr. Digges?

  34. Oh, and by the way…you wanted someone to show you “something.” Well, Mr. Digges (or should I say “ex officer Digges”) I believe a little ole’ farmer who happened upon a jawbone was the one who showed us ALL “something” here.

  35. paw75 said

    “We as a community get nowhere being negative.”

    We will also get nowhere by ignoring the truth.

  36. How about writing something on the corruption engaged in by our own judges in Walker County….namely, Bo Woods, who I know for a fact accepts bribes for lighter sentences….I was in jail with a guy who had 5, count them 5, FELONY drug charges. His mom paid the lawyer 2500 dollars who in turn gave a good portion of that to Bo Woods, who then gave the guy 45 days in rehab. Or perhaps the fact that Judge Woods has been pulled over several times in the past for DUI yet if you try and find records of any of them, they don’t exist. It seems in our little town it’s not how much justice you deserve, it’s how much you can afford.

    I agree. The judges we have today aren’t much better than the criminals they try. Bo Woods should be on the other side of the bench!

  37. You know, I never did address Mr. Digges regarding what his follow up post was to mine. I never said he should NOT have an opinion, no matter HOW insensitively stupid it may be. I never have stated that people should NOT have opinions. But, I do feel that opinions are just as the old saying goes…and everybody has one. To further the saying, I believe that every opinion should be followed by someone who takes time to rehash the opinion-haver as well as examine the facts (or lack thereof depending on the situation) given by said person. That’s all.

    The matter at hand is this: Theresa’s body has been found. Sam Parker sits in jail…hopefully for good. We as a public (but ESPECIALLY Threresa’s family) should find out what actually happened to her in order to fill in the puzzle pieces that are still empty.

  38. I followed the entire Sam Parker trial..I remember when the judge first addressed the jury. He said for them to use their common sense when making their decision. That being the case, when I used my common sense, after hearing all the evidence, I could not come up with an innocent verdict. In my opinion Sam Parker’s downfall was his lies. Had they not had the cellphone records to back up the truth of where he was at crucial times, I believe he would have been acquitted.

  39. Lafayette is notorious for covering up the truth. Does anyone remember Wayne Snow? His brother Mike Snow was a state representative for way too long. As mentioned in this blog, he had a large role in the crematory cover-up.

    Back to Wayne; Mike was in the fight of his polititical life in a runoff against Jay Neal. I remember it well because I was helping with the Jay Neal campaign. During this time, his brother Wayne passed away. It was kept out of the media (by Mike no doubt) and not even an obituary that I could find. The reason being … dear old Wayne was a child molester, and Mike didn’t want the publicity hounding him. There is no honor in the Snow clan apparently, and ol’ Wayne slipped into eternity without a proper goodbye.

    Here’s a clip of Wayne’s woes from 2000;
    Wayne Snow Jr., retired chairman of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles and a former state legislator, was arrested Wednesday in Walker County on a charge of child molestation. Sheriff’s Capt. Hill Morrison said Snow, 64, of Chickamauga turned himself in at the jail in LaFayette and was released on $5,000 bond. Reached at home Wednesday evening, Snow, who retired from Pardons and Paroles in 1993, declined to comment on advice from his attorney.

    ”Needless to say, I don’t think he’s guilty of anything,” said Snow’s brother, state Rep. Mike Snow (D-Chickamauga). Wayne Snow has been under investigation since July, Morrison said. The appearance of the alleged victim’s mother on a Chattanooga TV station earlier this week “kind of messed us up,” he said, but no further charges are expected.

    The mother of the 14-year-old boy told the station her son hitched a ride with Snow in late July and the two drove to Snow’s home. There, she said, Snow asked the boy to expose himself and when the child refused, Snow allegedly grabbed his crotch.

    Mayberry on crack cocaine?

  40. I thought about that the other day but all the obituaries and information I found for Mr. Snow skipped over that part of his past. Wayne was also an elected politician, and nobody had a bad word to say about him after he turned all Michael Jackson on the local youth.

    Apparently Mike Snow has been declared dead by the federal government and no longer gets his state pension checks, despite being physically much alive and residing in Atlanta after an undistinguished career in Tommy Irvin’s Department of Agriculture. Hopefully his being declared dead will somehow result in his being laid out alive in the field behind Clara Marsh’s house to be eaten by wild animals like so many of his former constituents were after they assumed room temperature. (See http://blogs.ajc.com/political-insider-jim-galloway/2011/07/05/in-which-we-talk-to-the-late-state-rep-mike-snow/ for more.)

    The people of Walker County began to understand the role Mike played in covering up the crematory and, faced with a decent opposing candidate, voted him out of office. I just cannot for the life of me understand why they can’t do the same for Steve Wilson in light of his willful coverup of the Marsh’s behavior and his role in the murder of Theresa Parker.

    — LU

  41. This why my book is a must read. It will never make it in the publishing world because I put actual transcripts in the book along with all my research. It is absolutely disgusting what happened in the Tri-State Crematory case. The attorneys made out like bandits and the Marshes received money and protection for their property and money. My goal is to try to reach one person at a time to learn about what happened. My website is http://www.legaldeception.com Even if you do not purchase the book please take a look at the website. My research tells me there are still bodies buried on the property and that the GBI screwed up the identification process. There are still bodies that can be identified by clothing. How do I join the underground??

  42. You’re part of the movement even if you didn’t know it, because you’re brave enough to stand up and say what needs to be said… If you mean specifically joining our Facebook, you can just “Like” the page when you visit it.

    We’re working on a review of your book to post here soon. Thanks for reading.

    — LU

  43. Can anyone give any information on what the city manager was like? We are having a hard time with him, here in Hartwell. He’s tight with the mayor, to the point of lying to the councilmen during the meetings. They’re starting to get wise to him, but his “good Christian man” act, makes it difficult to get people to question him. At stake is the finishing of a large construction project, who gets a piece of the taxpayer money pie. $3,000 phones! Checks made out to a furniture company that uses a LLC number behind another LLC number, and a made up name. I know he is up to no good, but can’t prove it. The mayor here has been a disgrace since her election, but I have no proof to take to the Governor to ask him to bring the GBI in. Please help, if you know something I can take to the council members here.

  44. Mary, I assume you mean David Aldridge, the CM mentioned in this article. He left LaFayette in 1997, I don’t recall that anybody said exactly why.

    If Hartwell needs a new police chief we have a great one here you guys should bring in. We’ll give you a reference for him any time you want.

    — LU

  45. Lafayette underground sucks!!! Les coffey, katie marks and the whole crew.self rightous bitches.kids for christ is a front for pulling in illegal grant money.

  46. Kenny,
    I don’t know if you’re a drinking man, but if you’re not, you ought to consider taking it up. That way, people would think you were drunk and not just plan ol’ stupid.

  47. Kenni – please refrain from being an idiot. Kids 4 Christ does not pull any grant money from anybody to front for anything- go look at the books and quit being malicious.

  48. Want to see good changes in LaFayette…get out the old money & let the younger generation run it the way it needs to be ran. “Out with the old & in with the new”. The old farts running it now wants nothing to improve, grow, or have any other positive outlook for that matter. Their priorities are definitely in the wrong place & their “my way or the highway” attitude sucks. Bring in the good restruants & business’s that would bring in the revenue this town needs, which would also bring in much needed jobs but, no they have to refuse everything that makes the most since. I don’t remember who typed it earlier but I agree 100% we need to take a stand for what is right. Right is right & wrong is wrong it don’t matter who you are or what you are doing. Pick your battles, if it is worth fighting over-fight for it & if it is not…leave it alone.

  49. And idiots are every where !

  50. my name is john r leming i have been vilated by the judge and the sherifs office my wrights have been vialated i think steve and bo woods needs to be replaced

  51. Police officers of Lafayette will get on the stand and lie on innocent people because they cannot get real crimanals