It’s one of the most baffling mysteries in Central Florida history.
Michelle Parker and her former fiancé Dale Smith had always had a complicated relationship. The parents of small twins, they had split up — but the acrimony continued. They even haggled over an engagement ring on a 2011 episode of The People’s Court.
But then, something tragic happened.
On November 17, 2011 — the very day their People’s Court episode aired — Parker, then 33, dropped off her 3-year-old twins at Smith’s home. She planned to run some errands in her Hummer before heading to her job as a bartender — but she never arrived. Her Hummer was found abandoned. Three weeks later, divers found her cell phone in a nearby lake. No trace of her was ever found.
Shortly after Parker’s disappearance, police turned their attention to Smith, saying he was the only suspect in the case. But evidence never materialized, and police have made no arrests in the case.
It has been eight years since Parker disappeared. Her twins are living with their father. Her older son from another relationship now lives with his father in Pennsylvania. And the case has gone cold.
Parker’s disappearance is investigated on the Nov. 23 episode of Real Life Nightmare on HLN (8 p.m. ET/PT). The episode, titled “Mom of 3 Vanished,” interviews insiders with intimate knowledge of the case.
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When the show asks if Smith knows what happened to Parker, his former attorney Mark NeJame replies, “No. Of course not.” Nejame acknowledges that it’s “odd” that Parker vanished on the same day as the People’s Court aired, but denies that his client had anything to do with it.
“Those are the serendipitous things that happen in life,” NeJame says. “So it was wholly appropriate that law enforcement would’ve, should’ve, did fully completely investigate him from top to bottom. But they came up with nothing.”
Meanwhile, Parker’s family hasn’t given up hope that they’ll someday learn what happened to her.
“It’s frustrating,” Parker’s mother, Yvonne Stewart, told PEOPLE in 2014. “All we want is answers. Someone must know something. We’ll never stop looking for her.”
Real Life Nightmare: Mom of 3 Vanished airs on HLN on Nov. 23 (8 p.m. ET/PT).