Missing 'People's Court' Mom's Family Files Wrongful Death Suit

PHOTO: Michelle Parker was seen on an episode of The Peoples Court then mysteriously disappeared the same day.
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The mother of missing Florida mom Michelle Parker has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Parker's ex-fiance, who is the father of two of her children.

Parker, 33, of Orlando, Fla., has been missing since Nov. 17, 2011, the same day her appearance on "The People's Court" television show aired. She and Smith appeared in the episode to resolve a dispute over a $5,000 engagement ring.

Parker was last seen dropping off the couple's twins at Smith's home.

Police named Parker's ex-fiance Dale Smith as the prime suspect in the case, but no charges have been filed and no arrest has been made. He still has custody of the children. But the attorney for Parker's family claims he has evidence against Smith, including text messages.

The lawsuit, which seeks damages in excess of $15,000, claims that Dale Smith was "negligent or otherwise committed a wrongful act and caused the death of Michelle L. Parker."

Parker's Hummer was found after her disappearance as was her battered iPhone, at the bottom of a lake. Though the cell phone was found about 40 minutes from Parker's home, the lake is only five minutes from Smith's home.

Parker's body has not been found, but the lawsuit claims that Parker "died on or about November 17, 2011 as a direct and proximate result of the negligence of the Defendant."

"That's the day we believe it happened," Parker estate attorney John Morgan told ABCNews.com. Parker's mother Yvonne Stewart represents her daughter's estate, which includes her three children.

"[Yvonne Stewart] doesn't want to believe it happened, but everyone knows what happened and when it happened," Morgan said. "We think she was killed."

Morgan said the legal team is not ready to elaborate on the details of what they believe happened to the mother of three, but said he will let the lawsuit speak for itself for now.

"If the said Defendant had not been negligent or otherwise committed a wrongful act, and if said Defendant had acted appropriately in accordance with the prevailing standard care of the Defendant, there would not have been any injuries or damages sustained by Michelle L. Parker," the filing states.

More than a year after Parker's disappearance, detectives are still investigating her case.

"It's still an open investigation," Orlando Police Sgt. Jim Young told ABCNews.com today. He spoke to the case's lead detective on Thursday who said there are no updates in the case and Smith is still listed as a suspect.

Morgan claims he has evidence against Smith, including text messages between Parker and Smith.

"We just think that we have some pieces that when taken with testimony may tell a more full story and that testimony has to come from Dale and his parents."

Asked if he could elaborate on the content of the messages, Morgan said, "I don't want to say. I don't want him to be ready for that."

"We'll be most interested when we get a chance to depose him," Morgan said. "Will he take the fifth or tell the truth?"

Smith could opt out of answering most questions by pleading the fifth in the civil case to prevent incriminating himself in any possible future criminal case.

Smith's attorney Mark Nejame refutes the claims made by the Parker estate's attorney.

"They're barking up the wrong tree," Nejame said. "They've been frustrated for a long time because law enforcement hasn't found a scintilla of evidence that ties him to her disappearance or murder...Just because everyone thinks he did it doesn't mean he did it."

Nejame said that Smith voluntarily spoke to law enforcement four times and let them into his house for a full inspection within hours of Parker's reported disappearance.

"They've tailed him," Nejame said. "They've spoken to every person who has basically known him and there's nothing to link him to her disappearance or death."

"Our hearts go out to Michelle Parker's family, truly, but sadly a lawsuit against Dale Smith is not going to bring them any closer to finding out what happened to Michelle Parker," he said.

Nejame said that Smith is working in Tennessee and is a good father. He has custody of he and Parker's twin 4-year-olds. Parker's 10-year-old son is living in Pennsylvania with his father.

Parker's mother Yvonne Stewart used to be "very involved" with her grandchildren's lives, Morgan said, but has not been able to see them. He said Stewart has been "instrumental" in working on a bill to guarantee grandparents' rights.

The bill is backed by Florida House Representative Darryl Rouson and it is expected to come into legislature this session, Morgan said.

"She's been doing well, but I think that when we filed she kind of broke down because it was like, here it is. This is real. This is today. And she's also very grateful to us for championing this cause. There was a lot of emotion."

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