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Missing Florida woman's cell phone found

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 7:26 AM EST, Fri December 9, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Michelle Parker's iPhone is "currently undergoing forensic testing," police say
  • Parker's family is "fearful a tragic day is imminent," lawyer says
  • But family also "hopeful this will lead to new developments in her disappearance"
  • Parker disappeared after appearing on "People's Court" with her ex-fiance

Orlando, Florida (CNN) -- Investigators have found the iPhone carried by Michelle Parker, who disappeared after appearing on a "People's Court" episode with her ex-fiance, Orlando police said Thursday.

"The phone was found in remarkably good condition and is currently undergoing forensic testing in the hopes that it will yield physical evidence and/or data which will assist in this investigation," a police news release said.

Attorney Matt Morgan, speaking for Parker's family, told CNN that family members are "hopeful this will lead to new developments in her disappearance."

"On one hand, this news is very sad for the family because they are fearful a tragic day is imminent," Morgan said. "On the other hand, they are happy because this development brings them one step closer to closure."

Police will not reveal when or where the cell phone was found, but they did release a photograph of the phone taken after it was recovered. The news release also included photos and video of Parker using the phone.

Authorities have said that Dale Smith, the ex-fiance and father of her 3-year-old twins, is the primary focus of a police investigation into the disappearance of Parker, 33.

Parker and Smith appeared on an episode of "The People's Court" that aired hours before Parker was reported missing on November 17. The segment had been taped months earlier.

She was last seen driving near Orlando. Her last known communication was a brief, seemingly innocuous text message to her brother that same day, according to the Facebook page devoted to her case.

Parker's sister, Lauren Erickson, said Parker and Smith met about five years ago. They were estranged, and "The People's Court" episode revolved around their dispute over who would get a $5,000 engagement ring, with Judge Marilyn Milian eventually suggesting they split the proceeds and stay apart.

Smith's attorney brushed off suggestions last week that the "People's Court" episode could have provided a motive for Smith to harm Parker.

"He didn't look bad. He won," Mark NeJame said. "So there's no motive. ...There's not, like, saying, 'Ah, I looked like an idiot in front of the world because of what you put me through.'"

He said Smith is entitled to a presumption of innocence in Parker's disappearance.

"There's not enough evidence to arrest him," NeJame said. "For that, you want to take away a person's children because some people on blogs are on a feeding frenzy?"

Family and friends gathered at The Barn, the club about 20 miles north of Orlando where Parker worked.

"We just try to stay positive," friend and co-worker Erica Thims told CNN's Erin Burnett Wednesday night.

A fundraiser to help pay for the search is set for Saturday at The Barn, Thims said.

"We're passing out fliers as much as we can, staying on TV, staying with Facebook," Thims said. "It's a great way to keep her name out there, her face out there. Just trying to make people aware that we still want her home and we're not going to give up."

A Florida judge ruled last week that the young twins must be returned to their father, saying there was not enough evidence for state child welfare officials to keep them.

The state Department of Children and Families placed the twins in protective custody a day earlier.

Smith and Parker had joint custody of the twins.

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