Michelle Parker: 6 years after Florida mom disappeared, ex-fiancé is prime suspect

Michelle Parker had no interest in watching her appearance on "The People's Court" when it aired on a November afternoon six years ago, telling family members she was embarrassed about the broadcasted dispute with her ex-fiancé over a lost engagement ring.

Hours later, the hardworking and popular bartender and mother of three vanished -- never to be seen or heard from again.

On the sixth anniversary of Parker's disappearance, Florida police said her former fiancé, Dale Wayne Smith, is the prime suspect in their investigation, which remains very active. He also said that, in part because of the massive media coverage of her disappearance, numerous leads have come in and all of them are vetted "whether they include him or not."

"His status has not changed over the last six years," Detective Michael Moreschi of the Orlando Police Department said of 46-year-old Smith. "He's an uncharged suspect in the case. There’s no probable cause to arrest him."

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Orlando police say Smith, pictured above, is the lead suspect in Parker's disappearance.

"That said, we continue to look at anything that comes in whether it has to do with him or not," Moreschi told Fox News.

"I want if nothing else to give Michelle’s family a place to mourn her," he said. 

The episode aired on Nov. 17, 2011 -- just before Parker disappeared. She spent the morning at a salon owned by her mother in Oviedo, Fla. At around 2 p.m., when “The People's Court” appearance was scheduled to begin, Parker drove to Smith's condominium in Orlando where she dropped off their 3-year-old twins for a planned visit. That was the last known sighting of her, investigators said.

Parker, who lived with her mother in Geneva, was reported missing after she failed to show up for her job as a bartender in Sanford. When her brother, Dustin, texted her to ask where she was, he got an immediate reply: "Waterford."

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Family and friends said Parker was a devoted mother to her three children.

That response alarmed family members who said Parker never replied with one-word texts.

"There is no way that she left [the area] voluntarily, or that she left without a fight," said Moreschi. "Her children were her life."

Parker's phone traveled westward from Smith's home, according to police. Its last ping was off a tower in the Belle Isle area. Waterford is in another direction -- northeast of where Smith lived.

Parker's abandoned Hummer was found days later near an apartment complex just west of Mall at Millenia -- with the decal promoting her airbrush-tanning business removed from the vehicle. Her iPhone was discovered by a dive team in a lake about four miles from Smith's home.

A 30-second video taken from a traffic camera and released by police in 2013 shows Parker's Hummer at a red light at about 8:55 p.m. on the day she was last seen. The decals Parker had put on it promoting her business were removed.

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"At that point we don’t believe that she’s driving the car," said Moreschi.

Parker and Smith had an often tumultuous relationship, according to friends of the couple. 

At the suggestion of Smith, the two appeared on The People's Court to settle the cost of a lost engagement ring in an episode taped in August 2011 -- three months before its air date and Parker's disappearance.

Smith had sued Parker, a 33-year-old mother of three, for $5,000 for allegedly throwing the ring over a hotel balcony during an argument. The judge ruled that Smith and Parker should split the cost.

During the episode on the small-claims-court show, the two hurled accusations at each other and a court reporter called their relationship a "fatal attraction."

"He gets pretty malicious and vindictive, and he's a mean person, especially when been he's drinking," Parker said of Smith during the episode, calling him "hot tempered." 

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

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Michelle Parker

Smith declined to comment for this story through his attorney, Mark NeJame. According to military records, he was dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Marines years earlier for a domestic violence incident with another woman and for selling drugs. Parker reportedly tried to file a restraining order against him in 2009 but a judge rejected the request. 

Parker's disappearance prompted an extensive search of the Orlando area by police, dive teams and volunteers, scouring the area for any sign of the missing woman. Investigators have since revisited the swampy area near the Carter Glen condominiums, where Smith lived at the time.

A Facebook group devoted to the search for Parker -- with nearly 24,000 followers -- posts regular updates about the case, including the ongoing legal battle by the woman's mother, Yvonne Stewart, for visitation rights with her twin grandchildren.

The vast majority of comments on the page are from people who never knew her.

"She could have been anyone's mother, daughter, and sister," wrote one person.

"I pray every day this family gets justice," wrote another.

At The Barn Restaurant in Sanford, where Parker worked most nights as a bartender, coworkers remembered her as a kind-hearted employee and a devoted mother to her twins -- a boy and girl -- and her older son from a previous relationship.  

"She was a beautiful soul," said manager Crystal Wiggins, who bartended alongside Parker and often spent time with her outside of work.

"She was very much loved," Wiggins said.  

Cristina Corbin is a Fox News reporter based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @CristinaCorbin.