ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - It has been four years since an Orlando mother vanished, leaving behind two children, 3-and-a-half-year-old twins. At the time of Michelle Parker's disappearance, Trey and Taylor lived with their mother in a home on property belonging to Parker's parents.
"She was funny, beautiful, smart and an amazing mother," said Parker's mom, Yvonne Stewart, of her daughter. Stewart saw her grandchildren nearly every day, until a judge gave custody of the twins to their father, Dale Smith Jr. She has not seen her grandchildren in over three years.
"I wonder what they think, now that they're seven-and-a-half. I wish so much that we could do that day over, just one day to do over. It must be very hard on them, it must," said Stewart. "It's been tough, but the time is coming," added Parker's father, Brad Parker.
It could be coming, because Stewart championed state politicians and got a grandparents rights bill passed and signed into law in June. Sitting between their attorney, Belvin Perry, Parker's parents on Tuesday announced they have filed a petition of grandparent visitation. Perry says he believes this petition is the first of its kind to be filed since the bill became law.
"I just think he [Dale Smith Jr.] wants to get as far removed from Michelle's disappearance. He doesn't want to deal with us. Legally, before, he had that power," said Stewart. "Now, the shift is changing. The ball is in our court now."
This could be a three-step process that Perry says will likely start with a hearing, then it would go to mediation. If Smith doesn't agree with visitation, it will go to trial and a judge will decide, according to Perry.
Orlando Police say Smith is the only suspect in Parker's disappearance. Judge Perry says that, along Smith's violent criminal history spelled out in the petition, should work in their favor. Parker's parents and Perry say this is not about driving a wedge between the young twins and their father, but about reuniting a family. "These individuals are the link to their mom, and they should be entitled to have that link," said Perry. "Amen!" echoed Parker's parents.
FOX 35 stopped by Dale Smith Jr's house to get his reaction to the petition. He did not appear to be home.