DCF takes custody of missing woman's children

Michelle Parker missing since Nov. 17

Published On: Nov 29 2011 05:55:24 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 08 2011 02:22:45 PM EST
Michelle Lee Parker
ORLANDO, Fla. -

The Department of Children and Families has taken emergency custody of the twin toddlers of missing Orlando woman Michelle Parker.

The 3-year-old boy and girl had previously been in the custody of their father, Dale Smith, but on Monday the Orlando Police Department named Smith as the prime suspect in Parker's disappearance.

On Tuesday, DCF filed and obtained a take-into-custody order from the court and the children were taken into custody by DCF around 4 p.m. Tuesday.  The children had been subpoenaed to an Orlando child welfare office for questioning prior to the custody transfer earlier in the afternoon.

An emergency hearing will take place Wednesday morning.

Parker, 33, disappeared the afternoon of Nov. 17, hours after an episode of "The People's Court" featuring her and Smith over a $5,000 engagement ring aired nationwide. Smith was the last known person to see Parker alive when she dropped the twins off with him.

Police initially said Smith, 40, was not a suspect and said he has been cooperating with the investigation, but during a Monday afternoon news conference, Orlando Police Chief Paul Rooney announced that Smith is the primary suspect in Parker's disappearance. Police did not say why Smith is now being considered a suspect.

Smith's attorney, Mark NeJame, held a news conference Tuesday afternoon. NeJame previously represented Casey Anthony's family and Tiger Woods. He served as a legal analyst for WKMG during the Casey Anthony murder trial.

NeJame said Smith wants search group Texas Equusearch to help look for Parker. He also said Smith did not take a lie detector test because they are not reliable.

Police searches have spanned across Orange County and into Brevard County.

Also Tuesday, Matt Morgan, of the Morgan and Morgan law firm, announced his practice will be representing Parker's family free of charge.

Parker's family is encouraging Smith to come forward with what he knows about Parker's disappearance.