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Authorities Search Florida Lake for Missing Mother Michelle Parker

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Parker, left, was last seen Nov. 17 after appearing on a taped episode of  "The People's Court" with her ex-fiance, Dale Smith Jr., right.

Authorities are scouring a Florida lake for any sign of a missing Orlando mother last seen after appearing on a taped episode of "The People's Court."

Investigators searched Lake Ellenor in south Orlando on Thursday for 33-year-old Michelle Parker. 

The search comes a day after a judge returned custody of Parker's children to their father, 40-year-old Dale Smith, the woman's ex-fiance and the prime suspect in her disappearance.

Parker was last seen Nov. 17 dropping off her 3-year-old twins at Dale's home. That was the same day an episode of the court TV show aired featuring the couple in a dispute over a $5,000 engagement ring.

On the show, Parker described a tumultuous relationship with Smith that at times she said became violent.

"He gets pretty malicious and vindictive," Parker said on the show, "and he's a mean person especially when he's been drinking."

"He shouldn't have put his hands on me and he shouldn't have put his hands on me prior. He shouldn't have left me three or four times over the past year and a half that we've been together," she said.

Parker's vehicle was found abandoned the day after she disappeared, and her family initially thought she was the victim of a car jacking. 

On Thursday, dive teams and search crews on boats scoured the lake while cadaver dogs helped search the surrounding land, WTSP.com reports. 

The area is less than two miles from Smith's father's house, as well as Smith's place of work. The lake is also in the same area where Parker's cell phone was last used. 

An emergency custody hearing was held on Wednesday to determine whether Parker's twins should stay in state custody or be returned to Smith. The judge ruled the twins face no imminent danger in the custody of their father. 

Smith's attorney, Mark NeJame, said his client has done nothing wrong.

NeJame told reporters that Smith is asking for the the missing persons search group Texas Equusearch to help look for Parker. NeJame said his client is declining to take a lie-detector test because it's unreliable and not because he is hiding anything.

"If this doesn't ring as a testament to a man who is not guilty, I don't know what does," NeJame said. "Mr. Smith wants Michelle found. Now what guilty person is asking for a search to be conducted? If she is found alive or not, he knows that will exonerate him."

Court records show Parker filed for a domestic violence injunction against Smith in 2009, but the order was dismissed after a hearing.

Smith has had traffic infractions and arrests on a misdemeanor drug charge and a misdemeanor charge of possession of an opened container of alcohol in a car, according to court records. The most serious charge he faced was for aggravated battery in 1996.

He pleaded guilty and a prison sentence was withheld.

The Orlando police department's SWAT team raided the home of Dale's father on Saturday night, but Parker's family said nothing was found. 

Parker's brother, Dustin Erickson, told a local news station that police did not uncover any evidence during the search.

"They had reason to search the house. They searched the house, they didn't come up with what they were looking for," Erickson told cfnews13.com. "The SWAT team was there; they had dogs there and they didn't come up with nothing."

 The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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