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NANCY GRACE

Orlando Police Search Lake Near Home of Missing Woman`s Ex-Fiance

Aired November 30, 2011 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


NANCY GRACE, HOST: Breaking news tonight, live, Orlando. A gorgeous mom of three fights it out on "The People`s Court" over a luxury diamond engagement ring. A stormy relationship with her ex plays out in front of millions of people. Just hours later, she`s gone, her black Hummer found at a complex just down from her home, decals carefully scraped off the SUV windows.

Michelle caught on surveillance in that Hummer just before she disappears. We have the video. The last so-called "ping" on Mommy`s phone 8:00 PM, then the cell phone powered down for good. After an armed SWAT team, CSI and K9s pull a nighttime raid at her ex`s family home, investigators announce a prime suspect. After he says he`s, quote, "too busy" to look for Michelle, the ex lawyers up, as reports he`s linked to a previous murder. Photos surface of Smith, Jr., dancing and stripping down in a, quote, "hot man" contest.

Bombshell tonight. As we go to air, 30 officers and divers descend, searching Lake Ellenor, just miles from the ex`s home, all happening right now. Smith, Jr.`s, defense team cooks up a new timeline, claiming murder impossible, but now blaming a mystery kidnapper. Smith dishonorably discharged from Marines for drugs and domestic abuse. Wife number two dies suddenly, ruled accident.

Another bombshell. In the last hours, an emergency custody hearing over the 3-year-old twins. Her 11-year-old son says Smith hit Mommy in front of all three children. And even with all this stunning testimony, the custody judge gives the 3-year-old twins back to Daddy! Daddy, the prime suspect in Mommy`s death or disappearance? Hello? The twins are going back to Daddy? What? Tonight, where is missing mom Michelle?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Why is the ex named the prime suspect?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He feels the same as any innocent man would who is falsely accused.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hundreds of tips.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His children are in foster care tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They said they have no evidence that it is anyone else, that he is solely the person they are focused on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m right behind the police trying to figure out where Michelle is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s telling that he said, I didn`t do it. Well, 20 years ago, he didn`t technically do it, either, but he was the ringleader.

GRACE: The two of them on there, fighting over an engagement ring.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There can be a polygraph test to determine where the location of a person or an object is.

GRACE: She labels him on national TV to be emotionally, verbally and physically abusive and, quote, "a mean drunk." All right!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The domestic partner is the most likely person to hurt someone in a situation like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We offered him a polygraph.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He refused to take a polygraph test.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s most often the husband the wife, the fiance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Good evening. I`m Nancy Grace. I want to thank you for being with us. Bombshell tonight. Gorgeous mom of three fights it out on "The People`s Court" over a luxury diamond engagement ring. Just hours later, she`s gone. As we go to air, officers, 30 of them -- 30 officers and divers descend, searching Lake Ellenor for Michelle`s body. This is just miles from the ex`s home, and it`s happening right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe if he had nothing to hide, he would have taken a polygraph test because I would have.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you know something, let her be a mother to her children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We brushed it under the rug and I stayed with him for a few more months.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a sad day, really.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After numerous tips and investigative leads, we are officially naming Dale Smith, the ex-fiancee, as the primary suspect in the disappearance of Michelle Parker.

MICHELLE PARKER, "PEOPLE`S COURT" CONTESTANT: He`s pretty malicious and vindictive and he`s a mean person, especially when he`s been drinking. Any of the problems that we`ve ever had has always been alcohol-related. (INAUDIBLE) walked away, went down the stairs, got 10, 15 feet away from the front door, and I felt somebody grab me and (INAUDIBLE) me around. As he grabbed and turned around, he was holding onto me, screaming at me, pointing back up on the stage (ph), going (INAUDIBLE) back on the stage. You know? And I`m, like, sitting there, looking at him, like, Really? You`re really doing this in front of all these people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are putting forth all of our resources to bring Michelle home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: You`re seeing videos from YouTube and Warner Brothers. That`s Michelle Parker on "People`s Court." Significance -- she and the ex are fighting it out over a luxury engagement ring worth thousands and thousands of dollars just before she goes missing. I`m talking about, like, an hour before she goes missing, this episode of "People`s Court" airs, where she brands him to be emotionally, verbally, physically abusive.

As we go to air right now, we learn that 30 officers and a dive team descend, searching Lake Ellenor. Straight out to Ellie Jostad, our chief editorial producer. Ellie, where is Lake Ellenor -- and let me see the map, Liz -- as it relates to the fiance`s parents` home and the Fiance`s home?

ELLIE JOSTAD, NANCY GRACE PRODUCER: Nancy, Lake Ellenor is -- as you can see there, it is only about seven miles from the ex`s house. It is less than a mile from his parents` house. This search going on now, numerous officers out there. As you can see, they`re using boats. They`ve got a K9 unit out there. There`s a dive boat there. So they`re doing a thorough search of this lake, but they won`t say what led them there.

GRACE: You know, they are saying it`s a routine search, but take a look at this aerial video. It`s a primetime exclusive, a search going on as we go to air, the search for Michelle Parker`s -- possibly her body, and looking in these dense woods, this underbrush. You know, Florida underbrush is so incredibly thick, you practically have to cut through like a machete.

Again, Ellie, how far did you say this is from the ex`s family home?

JOSTAD: This is less than a mile, Nancy, about three quarters of a mile from Dale Smith, Jr.`s, parents` house.

GRACE: And this as Dale Smith, Jr.`s, lawyers, his new defense team, takes to the air saying, Murder, impossible, cooking up a brand new timeline.

And to you, Alexis Tereszcuk, senior reporter, Radaronline.com, the defense team takes to national airwaves this morning claiming murder impossible with their version of the timeline. What do you make of it? And what is their claim that murder is impossible? How do they rationalize that, Tereszcuk?

ALEXIS TERESZCUK, RADARONLINE.COM: What they say is that there was only a one -- an hour and 15 minute window because Michelle is seen on video. Her car drove by. She dropped the twins off at 3:18 PM. The defense says that Dale Smith, Jr., was then at his parents` house with the children at 4:30. They say it`s absolutely impossible for him to make that trip. And they said, Well, if he had killed somebody, he wouldn`t have time to hide the body, dump the car and do all of this. That`s their explanation for it.

GRACE: Oh, Alexis...

TERESZCUK: However, Dale...

GRACE: ... that`s a good one! That`s a good one! I just didn`t have time to commit the murder and hide the body. Let`s hear it from the horse`s mouth. Roll it, Liz.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK NEJAME, FINANCE`S ATTORNEY: Where`s the evidence to suggest that he did it? You can`t take somebody`s -- you can`t take a gut feeling and then abandon evidence. How do you get from her place back to the mall at Millennia, where her vehicle was found, in an hour and 20 minutes, give or take? How do you do that? It`s physically impossible -- with two vehicles. Her Hummer was there, which would have necessitated him picking up a car and driving it there, all within a span -- because we know at 3:18, the video shows that she pulled in, and we know at 4:30, she arrived -- he arrived at his father`s place, his parents` house.

So in that period of time -- in that period of time, how was it physically -- go out there. Do your investigation. I challenge each and every one of you to go get in your cars and run that track and see if you can -- and in between, you`ve killed and gotten rid -- disposed of a body where nobody can find it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: All right. Mark Nejame, you`re such an experienced lawyer. You really are. But I`m very surprised you got so cocky and actually challenged the press, the media, of all people, to try to play out that scenario because you know they`ve already done it, now that you said that.

And here`s the reality. Matt Zarrell, isn`t it true that cops are saying, yes, that`s all fine, well and good, but we can`t confirm what time the ex got to his parents` house, if he got there at 4:30, or if he stayed there. How do we know he didn`t dump the twins and take off to go hide the body? I mean, he has been named the prime suspect, has he not, Zarrell?

MATT ZARRELL, NANCY GRACE PRODUCER: Yes, you`re right, Nancy. And one interesting point here is the only person that could possibly back that statement up would be his own parents, so you have to wonder whether that information`s going to be completely credible. Who else can back it up? Another significance here, Nancy, is to get from his house to his parents` house, one of the routes he would have possibly taken was a toll road. So we wonder is, was he caught on surveillance? Is there video that could back up his claims?

GRACE: OK, now, that`s West -- what`s the toll road, Matt? I can`t remember. West what?

ZARRELL: I believe it`s 528, Nancy. Yes, 528 going west.

GRACE: West 528 is the fastest route. And that`s between what and what, Matt Zarrell?

ZARRELL: That`s between his home and his parents` home because Mark Nejame claims that what happened is, is that after Michelle drops the children off just after 3:18, that that is when Smith, Jr., immediately goes to his parents` house and is there at 4:30.

GRACE: Joining me right now, Brad Parker. This is Michelle`s father. Brad, what kind of vehicle does Smith, Jr., drive?

BRAD PARKER, MISSING WOMAN`S FATHER (via telephone): He drives a maroon, I believe it`s an F-1450 and he also has a work van, and that`s white.

GRACE: OK, let me ask you this, Brad. With me is Michelle`s father taking your calls. He`s desperately searching for his daughter, along with her mother. Brad, have those vehicles been searched, and searched with cadaver dogs, Brad Parker?

BRAD PARKER: I can`t say yes or no because the detectives won`t let us know. I do know they searched the house, but they would not let me know if they searched the cars.

GRACE: OK, Brad, what can you tell me about Lake Ellenor? Let`s see that video of the ongoing search right now. What do you know about Lake Ellenor? Do people go boating, skiing, swimming, fishing? I see a lot of thick underbrush right now, so is it a recreational lake? What is it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I live on the other side of town, so I`ve never been in that lake. But yesterday, we were looking in lakes. And the underbrush which you just said earlier, you almost need machete to get through. That`s how thick it was.

GRACE: Yes. Yes. Yes. It`s incredibly thick. Hey, Matt, hop on line or make a phone call down to the police right now. I want to find out about Lake Ellenor. Is at it man-made lake? Is it a drainage pond? What is it? Do people go boating there, fishing there, hiking there? I want to get an idea of who, if anyone, would be out there around the time that Michelle goes missing and in the subsequent eight to ten hours afterwards.

Everybody, we are taking your calls, and I want to go now to Dr. Vincent DiMaio, chief medical examiner, Bexar County. Dr. DiMaio, if you`re strangling someone -- let`s just say, for instance, strangling or suffocate, how long would that process take?

DR. VINCENT DIMAIO, FMR. CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER, BEXAR CTY. TX (via telephone): To kill someone, it takes two to three minutes on pressure to the neck.

GRACE: Whoa! There it goes, the defense timeline! Ka-bam!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are officially naming Dale Smith.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had to have a good tip or a lead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s no hiding. He`s there. He`s in the spotlight. The light is on him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Police say that Michelle Parker has a violent history with her ex.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She said that he would put his hands on her, that she was afraid for her life with him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never really cared for the guy.

GRACE: And says he`s too busy to look for Michelle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michelle was missing Thursday. Friday, he gets up and takes off to Titusville and goes to work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only suspect in her disappearance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He simply refused the polygraph.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s damned if he does, damned if he doesn`t.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From day one, I thought it was Dale.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was really the last person who saw her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could have avoided this, Dale. Unfortunately, you brought this on yourself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: We are taking your calls. Where is missing mom Michelle Parker? After she goes on national TV on "People`s Court," fighting over a luxury engagement ring with her ex, just a couple hours later, she`s gone.

As we go to air, a local lake, Lake Ellenor, being searched. Thirty officers and a dive team descend on that lake. Are they looking for Michelle`s body? Obviously, they are. This as the defense comes forward with its own timeline claiming murder impossible.

Unleash the lawyers. Joe Lawless, defense attorney, author of "Prosecutorial Misconduct," joining us today out of New York. Darryl Cohen, defense attorney, Atlanta.

OK, Darryl -- where`s Darryl?

DARRYL COHEN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I`m right here.

GRACE: Darryl, you and Lawless know better than to challenge anybody, especially the press, right? You know the moment Nejame said, I challenge you to drive the distance and see if it`s possible -- he`s just begging -- you know, he`s got a tiger by the tail now. You can`t hold on and you can`t let go, Cohen, because you know the press ran right out and did exactly what he said. And his timeline isn`t standing up to the police.

So they`ve drawn attention to that because now cops are saying, Hey, we don`t know what time he really got to his parents` house. We don`t know what or who was in the trunk. And we don`t know how long he stayed there or where he went afterwards. So it`s just opening up a Pandora`s box, a can of worms. Have you ever tried to put worms back in a can, Darryl Cohen? Have you ever done that? I bet you haven`t, have you.

COHEN: Doesn`t work, Nancy. Doesn`t work at all. What this lawyer should have done is kept his damn big mouth shut. What do you do? You make the police prove it. Look, she was on national TV. That opens up an aura (ph) of people who saw what happened, saw her argument.

And this woman`s not that sane, either, by putting -- airing her dirty laundry about a, quote, "luxury engagement ring"? Come on! Let`s get real. This lawyer needs to shut up, make the police do their job, protect his client by keeping his mouth shut, nothing more, nothing less.

GRACE: Agree or disagree Lawless?

JOE LAWLESS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I agree. You know, you make an innocuous statement about, My client`s innocent, and you don`t give details. Why reveal a defense to the press?

And you`re right, there`s somebody who went out and already ran that timeline. And you give me 10 reporters, five of them are going to find a way to beat it just because they want to find a way to beat it. I think he should have said something very trite, very tight, and gotten off. I think he made a big mistake.

GRACE: I want to go back to Dr. Vincent DiMaio, former chief medical examiner, Bexar County. Dr. DiMaio, you said it takes -- what did you say, two to three minutes to suffocate or strangle somebody?

DIMAIO: Yes, two to -- if you start strangling someone, they lose consciousness in about 10 to 15 seconds. You maintain the pressure to two to three minutes more, and they will stop breathing and are essentially dead.

GRACE: This search ongoing, as a juvenile custody judge gives custody back to Daddy. Hey, does he not know, does the judge not know that Daddy is suspect number one in the possible death of a gorgeous young mom of three, Michelle Parker? Tonight, her father is with us begging for your help. Where is Michelle? 800-423-8477.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My daughter is still not found. She is still missing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dale Smith, the ex-fiance of the missing woman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) has lawyered up with Florida hotshot criminal attorney Mark Nejame.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Smith wants Michelle found.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mother of his children is missing, and he has done zippo to look for her!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He refused to take a polygraph test.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What guilty person would do such a thing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us why they were here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He ain`t got nothing to do with that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a damned if do you, damned if you don`t scenario.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No defense attorney`s going to march him in there (INAUDIBLE) give a lie detector test to the Orlando PD.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: We are taking your calls. At this hour, 30 officers and a dive team descending on nearby Lake Ellenor in the search for Michelle Parker. As her father has agreed -- take a look at this -- to get through that underbrush, you basically have to fight through it with a machete.

Joining me right now to comment on the custody proceeding that went down this morning, where some judge in all of his or her wisdom, gives the 3-year-old twins back to Daddy, the prime suspect in the death or disappearance of the children`s mother.

With me is Matt Morgan (ph). He is the lawyer for Michelle`s family. Now, Matt, let me get this straight. You`re Matt Morgan. You`re the son of John (ph) Morgan, the lawyer with all his picture on all the buses, right?

MATT MORGAN, PARKER FAMILY ATTORNEY (via telephone): Yes, Nancy.

GRACE: OK, so you`re baby Morgan. And I`m not going to continue using that. But Matt, you`ve handled a lot of cases yourself. You`re representing Michelle Parker`s family. Were you in court for the custody hearing?

MORGAN: Yes, Nancy, I was there. And there was a proceeding by DCF, and they initiated it and drew up a petition. And essentially, the petition was just requesting that the children reside with Yvonne Stewart and her family while these proceedings are going on.

GRACE: OK. I`m sorry, I had talking in my ear. The request was that the twins live where during the proceedings?

MORGAN: The request was that the twins would reside with Yvonne Stewart, Michelle Parker`s mother, and her family at their estate.

GRACE: OK. What possessed the judge to give the 3-year-old twins back to Daddy, the prime suspect in the potential murder?

MORGAN: Ultimately, he based his...

GRACE: Oh, Judge Thomas Turner!

MORGAN: Hello?

GRACE: Go ahead, Matt. Go ahead, Matt Morgan.

MORGAN: Yes. Ultimately, he based his decision on the fact, I guess, that he didn`t believe that the kids were in imminent harm. He didn`t believe that danger was imminent.

GRACE: Really? This is after the 11-year-old son says he sees Daddy beating Mommy, and the judge doesn`t have a problem with that, Matt Morgan? Let`s see that judge`s picture again, Liz. Matt?

MORGAN: Yes, it`s -- you know, we are on the side of the DCF. We believe that the children should be with Yvonne and their family. And ultimately, you know, we weren`t thrilled with the judge`s ruling, but we have to respect it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The question remains where could Michelle be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are officially naming Dale Smith.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The primary suspect --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The only suspect --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ex-fiance as the primary suspect in the disappearance of Michelle Parker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is the evidence to suggest that he did it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We offered him a polygraph.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: He refused to take a polygraph test.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Polygraphs are only considered to be about 86 percent reliable. Which means it has a 14 percent fail rate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he simply refused.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a damn if you do, damn if you don`t scenario when it comes to the polygraph.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He never really cared for the guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can`t take a gut feeling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has a very bad temper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then abandon evidence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: We are taking your calls. A lot unfolding in the case of the missing "People`s Court" mom. As we go to air 30 officers and K-9 searching Lake Eleanor which is near the ex`s family home as well as his place.

And in a bombshell move a custody judge gives the 3-year-old twins back to daddy. This after the 11-year-old son says he has seen daddy beating mommy. The daddy, the prime suspect in mommy`s disappearance.

Hey, thanks, Judge. Thanks.

Joining me right now, Caryn Stark, psychologist joining us out of New York.

Caryn, I`m stunned the children are back with the daddy.

CARYN STARK, PSYCHOLOGIST: I am too, Nancy. It`s just inconceivable to me that they didn`t allow these children to go to the grandmother.

First of all, there`s a history of abuse in the family. There`s -- it`s a volatile relationship, domestic abuse. And a person who is out of control like this father can be, is not somebody you want to leave with these twins.

Also right now they are missing their mother. They need to have somebody in their life who feels consistent, can give security, love, and not disappear. The father is a suspect. He might disappear. They really, really need to be in a safe place and I`m so surprised that they sent them back to him. I`m just shocked.

GRACE: Also with us, CW Jensen, retired Portland police captain.

CW, the cops are saying that no real tip led them to Lake Eleanor but they sent 30 officers and a dive team to search Lake Eleanor and that dense brush surrounding it? What do you make of it, CW?

CW JENSEN, RETIRED PORTLAND POLICE CAPTAIN: Well, as an investigator what you do is you look at the whole area and you say where might the body be, and so the lake makes perfect sense. I`m sure that they will quadrant out everything and be searching a lot of other areas. But there was plenty of time to kill this poor woman and dispose of her body, the attorney is a joke.

GRACE: We are taking your calls, out to Caroline in Michigan. Hi, Caroline. What`s your question?

CAROLINE, CALLER FROM MICHIGAN: Hi, Nancy. Congratulations on "Dancing with the Stars." You did a wonderful job.

GRACE: Thank you.

CAROLINE: But my question is, didn`t they recently do a SWAT team go in on his parents` home and go through that?

GRACE: Yes, they did. And what if anything did they learn, Ellie Jostad?

ELLIE JOSTAD, NANCY GRACE CHIEF EDITORIAL PRODUCER: Nancy, we still don`t know what was found there. We don`t have the warrant. The police won`t release that. They won`t tell us anything about what they were looking for or what they might have removed from the home of his parents.

We`re also told, Nancy, that Dale Smith Jr. spends a lot of time at his parents` house. He takes the kids there. They watch the kids for him so this is a place he visits often.

GRACE: Out to the lines, to Amanda in Florida. Hi, Amanda, what`s your question, dear?

AMANDA, CALLER FROM FLORIDA: My question is, the 11-year-old, her other son, I just wanted to know if -- where was he at the time when she went missing and if they questioned him?

GRACE: Good question.

Alexis Tereszcuk, senior reporter, Radaronline.com, what do we know about the whereabouts of the 11-year-old? I know that he has been questioned.

ALEXIS TERESZCUK, REPORTER, RADAROLINE.COM: This is really sad. He had been at school that day, the day that she went missing. And he came home and his mom was always there to greet him. And she was not there so he got worried. And he called his grandmother and said, I don`t know where mommy is. And this started the chain of panic in the family and that`s when they realized that there might be something wrong. And shortly thereafter her brother got that very cryptic one-word text message and then she hasn`t been heard from since.

GRACE: Back to Michelle`s father, Brad Parker, joining us. Begging for help in the search for his daughter.

Brad Parker, what do you make of all the developments overnight?

BRAD PARKER, FATHER OF MISSING MOM, MICHELLE PARKER: It`s overwhelming. I can`t believe even the judge would give the kids back to him. But as the other lawyer said the judge made his ruling and we got to follow it. I disagree with -- I just -- and now they`re looking for Michelle. It`s very disturbing to me.

GRACE: Back to the lines, Betty in Florida. Hi, Betty, what`s your question, dear?

BETTY, CALLER FROM FLORIDA: Hi, Nancy. I just can`t understand why did they give him back the kids. And also, he`s a prime suspect, the judge should have seen that he should not be able to get the kids because he got all this domestic violence stuff like that from the past. And also, on the news it`s looking like they must have found something significant. Wouldn`t that play a part in him not --, the custody, they can go back to the court and -- so the family can get custody, the parents of the missing mother?

GRACE: I agree. And that`s not all, Matt Zarrell, that we`ve learned about Smith Jr.`s past. What do you know?

MATT ZARRELL, NANCY GRACE STAFFER, COVERING STORY: Yes, Nancy, we`ve learned more about the domestic violence case from 2000 that got him a little in trouble. He attacked his second wife. He actually returned home from a bar fight and woke her up. He was drunk. He dragged her out of the apartment. He slammed her head against a metal staircase. And she was very bloody. She needed to be taken to the hospital.

But one thing to note, though, Nancy, is as Smith Jr. was taking her to the hospital, first he stopped to pick up his friend first because his friend needed a ride, then he took his second wife to the hospital.

GRACE: Whoa. OK, what can you tell me about the marines and Smith Jr.?

ZARRELL: OK. He was dishonorably discharged for the domestic violence and for drug charges. Apparently what happened is that as he was taken away and in the lockup for the domestic violence that`s when they were doing an investigation into these drug charges.

He allegedly has a history with ecstasy. And then what happened, Nancy, is that about a year and a half later this second wife died from an accidental overdose from the same drug ecstasy. We do not know if there`s any connection between Smith Jr.`s ecstasy issues and second wife`s death. We`re still investigating that right now.

GRACE: Back to the lines. Hold on. I`m hearing in my ear that we`re now being joined by an expert diver, David Badali, police diving instructor. Hold on. Let me get that satellite up.

In the meantime, Joe Lawless, Darryl Cohen, why would any judge in his or her right mind give custody of the 3-year-old twins back to the prime suspect in mom`s death or disappearance? Cohen?

DARRYL COHEN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Nancy, whether we like it or not, that judge has to follow the law. He may not like his ruling but he has to follow the law and what he does, this man, number one, we don`t know if this woman was kidnapped, we don`t know if she was murdered, we do not know whether she took off on her own. Her previous past shows that this woman is not balanced anyway. So this really can be a --

GRACE: I`m sorry I couldn`t hear you. Her past shows that she`s what?

COHEN: Not very balanced. She went on "The People`s Court" to ask for her engagement ring back. What normal person would do that?

GRACE: Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait a minute. Wait a minute.

Put up Cohen. Number one, she did not go on "People`s Court" to get her engagement ring back. All right? She was accused of throwing the engagement ring off a balcony and he is asking -- it`s a big fight over the engagement ring between them.

Now as a former judge on "Swift Justice" where litigants are taken out of the court system to get quicker justice, are you suggesting that all these litigants who originally filed in the regular court system are unbalanced? So it`s like many of your own, Darryl? Is that what you`re saying?

COHEN: Yes, Nancy. I`m suggesting that anybody who puts themselves on national TV to fight over something is absolutely imbalanced, and it`s not just --

GRACE: Where do you think you are --

COHEN: And Nancy, it`s not just --

GRACE: -- right now? Do you think you`re sitting alone in a studio in Atlanta? Note to Darryl, you`re on national TV.

OK. Let me give you a try, Lawless. Weigh in.

JOE LAWLESS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY, AUTHOR OF "PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT": Well, I think if there was any scintilla of evidence that Smith Jr. was more than just a suspect the judge wouldn`t have granted custody. But the fact is that he did and that suggests to me that there`s no evidence of a crime being committed at this point. He`s a suspect.

GRACE: Really? Because that`s not what police say.

LAWLESS: Well, they say he`s a suspect, Nancy, and that doesn`t mean anything.

GRACE: You know what, I don`t need a law degree -- I don`t need a law degree to apply common sense as to why police named him the prime suspect in this woman`s disappearance or even death.

In the last hours a custody judge gives the 3-year-old twins back to daddy as the local lake being searched for Michelle.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A Florida man is now the primary suspect in the disappearance of his former fiancee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are officially naming Dale Smith, the ex- fiance, as the primary suspect in the disappearance of Michelle Parker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is the evidence to suggest that he did it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1990 pleads no contest to trespassing. 1992 pleads no contest to attempted aggravated battery. 1997 arrested for marijuana possession. 1997 pleads guilty to battery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can`t take a gut feeling and then abandon evidence.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Right now there is a frantic search.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The biggest thing I could not stress enough is that although we do have a suspect is that our main focus is to find my sister.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: We are taking your calls. Right now we`re going out to Badali, David Badali, police diving instructor.

David, we know that 30 officers in a dive team have just descend on Lake Eleanor. What are they doing? How is this going to work, David?

DAVID BADALI, POLICE DIVING INSTRUCTOR: Well, Nancy, I used to put divers in that lake to search and do recovery work. It`s a very shallow lake. Very murky. They are going to have to use either pontoon boats or low-drag type boats to get out. It`s no longer -- no bigger than an acre size -- surface size of that lake. And they`re going to need to use some dragnets. It`s the only way to really search it. It`s a very low visibility.

GRACE: Everyone, you are seeing exclusive video of Lake Eleanor being searched for Michelle.

To Brad Parker, Michelle`s father, joining us tonight and taking your calls. When did you learn that Lake Eleanor is being searched?

PARKER: You talking to me?

GRACE: Yes, Brad.

PARKER: OK. I think it was right before lunch my son called me and said they are searching the lake for Michelle and one of my co-workers where I work they could see the helicopters flying up over above.

GRACE: I want to go back to Matt Zarrell.

Matt Zarrell, you were describing Smith Jr.`s past including several incidents, not only that being dishonorably discharged from the Marines for domestic abuse and ecstasy use, you know his second wife died accidentally, it`s been ruled, from an ecstasy overdose.

But Matt, did you know that on the ME`s report, blunt force trauma to the head was listed allegedly caused by a, quote, "fall while being taken to the bathroom."

Matt, did you know that?

ZARRELL: Yes, I did, Nancy. But what happened was is that when the doctor looked at the autopsy and looked at the overall results she determined that was an accidental overdose but she did note all the trauma in her autopsy report.

It is also possible, Nancy, that she was so intoxicated from the overdose that she fell and bumped her head and she wasn`t beaten as some are suggesting.

GRACE: Really, is that possible? Do you know where the blood was? For instance, was it on the very top of the head? How would she fall if the blow was there, Matt, fall on the head upside down? Was she doing a cartwheel or handstand?

I mean, have you reviewed the medical examiner`s report, Matt? Don`t look nervous. No is a perfectly fine answer. Have you seen the autopsy report?

ZARRELL: Yes, I have.

GRACE: Where were the blows?

ZARRELL: The blows were to the top of her head. She also had blood on her ears. She had injuries to her legs that could also have been caused from falling from the stairs. She also had -- no injuries to the eyes. She was covered apparently in blood on the side of her head. But they -- again, Nancy, the doctor ruled that it was an accidental overdose, that there was no evidence of homicide.

GRACE: We are taking your calls.

Ellie, what more can you tell me about Smith Jr.`s background?

JOSTAD: Well, Nancy, he was also linked to a murder case when he was just about 20 years old. He and a friend got into a brawl in downtown Orlando, long story short, one of the guys they`re fighting ends up getting stabbed. Dale Smith Jr. wasn`t charged with the stabbing but he was charged with battery because he kicked one of the victims` friend in the head. He served just a little bit of time on that, Nancy. But he`s got a history of other arrests.

GRACE: Unleash the lawyers. Joe Lawless, Darryl Cohen.

Take a listen to what Dr. Vincent Dimaio, chief medical examiner, Bexar County has to say.

Dr. Dimaio, a blow to the top of the head? That doesn`t disturb you? I mean how would you get a blow. You`ve got to determine where exactly it was positioned. But a blow to the very top of the head? How do you get that, Dr. Dimaio?

DR. VINCENT DIMAIO, M.D., FORMER CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER, BEXAR COUNTY, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Usually you get hit on the top of the head in most instances because if you`re on level ground and when you fall your impact would usually be on the side of the face or in the back of the head. Not on the top.

So -- and you have to evaluate the whole case, though, because -- you know just because you find high levels of drugs in a person doesn`t mean they died -- because if you`re an addict you can walk around levels that would kill half the population. So you have to take into account the circumstances surrounding the death, the person`s past medical history, the autopsy and the toxicology results. It`s a little more complicated than just finding a high level of drugs.

GRACE: With us, Dr. Vincent Dimaio, former chief medical examiner, Bexar County, forensic pathologist.

Back to Michelle`s father, Brad Parker. You just heard one of the defense attorneys suggest that Michelle was mentally or emotionally unstable.

Mr. Parker, how many jobs was she holding down plus raising three children on her own?

PARKER: And she was going school, too, to be a beautician. And she was also through it, was going to quit bartending, and just go with -- cutting hair with her mother at the salon she raised. But I think she had like two jobs and went to school.

GRACE: You know, how does it make you feel -- what`s your response, Mr. Parker, when you hear people suggest that somehow -- this is what they are doing, that this is somehow Michelle`s fault that she was unstable for having her case resolved on "People`s Court" which she later said she wish she hadn`t done, but at the time it seemed OK.

How`s that make you feel? She`s missing right now. Her twins are going back to the father, the bio dad, who is named the prime suspect in her disappearance, and now people are suggesting Michelle is unstable. She`s anything but unstable.

PARKER: Correct. Correct. She is not unstable. And for the first part, he took Michelle to court. I mean what I heard this is his second time taking people to that -- to that court and -- Michelle`s stable. She loves those kids. She`ll do anything, you know, for those little kids.

GRACE: What did you say about the second time, being taken to court?

PARKER: Yes, he was on "People`s Court" again. I mean, this ain`t -- this isn`t -- what I heard, this is his second time on the show, on the court. I don`t know who he took, but he took someone else in there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s not enough evidence to arrest him. And for that, we want to take away a person`s children?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, oh, man, Michelle, the mother of my kids is missing. The police just came by and searched my whole house. This isn`t good. My kids need their mother.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Reports the young mom caught on surveillance in that Hummer, just moments before she disappears.

PARKER: A woman don`t disappear in broad daylight, especially with a Hummer and as pretty as Michelle is.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Surveillance video captured her black Hummer pulling up to his town house.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And vanished after she dropped off her twins at his condo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We still want people to try to remember, remember that Hummer.

GRACE: When the car, the Hummer, is finally found, those decals carefully scratched off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She loved those children and us. (INAUDIBLE) to have their mother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That she is still missing.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The question remains, where could Michelle be?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Right now, 30 officers and a dive team descend on Lake Eleanor, searching for missing mom, Michelle Parker.

With us, her father, answering your questions and taking your calls.

This is as a judge gives custody of the 3-year-old children, the twins, back to daddy, the prime suspect in mommy`s disappearance.

Question, back to you, Alexis Tereszcuk, Radaronline.com, her car dumped only three miles from the parents` home? Is that correct, Alexis?

TERESZCUK: Yes, from Dale Smith Jr.`s parents` home, absolutely. And this is the same home that was raided by the police just a few days ago. And after this, that`s when they finally admitted that Dale -- Dale Smith Jr. was a suspect. This is a car that is not like your everyday car. It`s not a small sedan. It`s a big, huge Hummer. It had big identifying stickers on it and it was found very quickly.

GRACE: Everyone, tip line, 800-423-8477, 800-423-8477. There is a reward. Help us find the missing mom of three, the "People`s Court" mom, Michelle Parker.

Let`s stop and remember Navy Chief Petty Officer Jack Fontan, 36, New Orleans, Louisiana. Killed, Afghanistan. Elite Navy SEAL, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Joint Service Commendation, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal.

Loved golf, the New Orleans Saints, dogs, birdie and Dixie, favorite show, "Dog Whisperer." Leaves behind parents Earle Jr. and hazel, stepfather, Donald, sister, Suzanne and Cherry, and brother, John Paul, widow, Teresa, daughter, Jordin.

Jacques Fontan, American hero.

Thank you to our guests, but especially to you for being with us. And a special happy birthday to Kelly, University of Virginia grad, marketing coordinator for court-appointed special advocate. Loves hiking, gardening, traveling, but mostly, husband, Navy pilot, currently deployed. At this hour, celebrating a special birthday dinner and watching our show.

Happy birthday, Kelly.

Everyone, I`ll see you tomorrow night, 8:00 sharp Eastern. And until then, good night, friend.

END