Michelle Parker: Lake searched for missing mom; kids returned to father

7:06 PM, Nov 30, 2011   |    comments
Michelle Parker (personal photo)
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ORLANDO, Florida (WKMG) - Authorities are searching an area near Lake Ellenor in south Orange County for a missing Orlando mother as a judge decides to return custody of her children to their father, the only suspect in her disappearance.

Photo Gallery: Pictures of Michelle Parker

More than 30 people from the Orlando Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff's Office are searching the area near Lancaster Road and Orange Blossom Trail, not far from where the last ping on Michelle Parker's phone was registered.

Parker, 33, disappeared Nov. 17 after dropping her twin 3-year-olds off with their father, Dale Smith. That same day, an episode of "The People's Court" aired nationwide featuring the couple in a dispute over a $5,000 engagement ring.

Dive teams and search crews on boats searched the lake while crews searched the ground around the lake. The search area is about five miles from Smith's father's house.

Police have not said what prompted the new search.

The Police Department officially named Smith, 40, as a suspect in Parker's disappearance on Monday.

Tuesday, the Department of Children and Families took custody of the couple's boy and girl twins from Smith, but a judge dismissed DCF's petition to place the children in protective custody for custody and returned the toddlers to Smith.

The judge said there is not probably cause sufficient enough for him to sign the petition.

Smith recently retained prominent Orlando attorney Mark NeJame, who has previously represented the Anthony family and Tiger Woods. Parker's family is represented by Matt Morgan of Morgan and Morgan.

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