ORLANDO, Fla.,None - Orlando police have found the cellphone of missing mother Michelle Parker, and it could be the biggest break in the case since she disappeared three weeks ago.
Parker's iPhone was discovered by a dive team under a bridge at Lake Conway in Belle Isle, detectives said. The site isn’t far from the cell phone tower that registered the last ping from Parker’s phone. The site was also between the home of her ex-fiance, Dale Smith II, and his parents’ home.
The Orlando Police Department released a picture of Parker's phone on Thursday. Police said they found the phone and are searching for clues. They have not released any more information.
"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," the Police Department said in a news release on Thursday.
Police also released two images of Parker using the same phone. The serial number confirmed that it is Parker's phone, police said.
Forensics experts said even after being submerged, the phone could still provide crucial information such as text messages and pictures and give a timeline of where Parker may have gone right before she vanished.
After 20 days of searching in an effort spanning two counties, for Parker’s family, the discovery of the cellphone is finally something.
“They literally just found a needle in a haystack,” said Parker’s sister Lauren Erickson.
Erickson said Orlando police called family members to the department Wednesday and showed them a picture of an iPhone 4. After looking at it, the family instantly knew it belonged to Parker.
“My heart dropped. It went up. It went all around. It is her phone. It is her phone case. It is the one,” said Erickson.
Other than her black Hummer, which was found in Orlando, the cellphone was the only thing police have found in the search for the missing mother.
Authorities have centered nearly all search efforts around the cellphone, and the last place its signal hit cell towers was near Oakridge Road in Orlando. The family believes this is a major break.
“Gives me great hope that we are getting closer, getting closer to her or finding who knows where she is,” Erickson said.
Investigators said Smith is the prime suspect in Parker’s disappearance. Authorities said his house was the last place Parker was spotted dropping her twins off last month.
"That phone is literally a lifeline to her," said Erickson.
Parker's family said she used her iPhone for all her communications, both personal and for her business.
She also used it to set and track appointments.
The iPhone had a built-in GPS tracking system that could also detail her final movements.
Investigators said that phone forensics analysis can take a few days.