CALDWELL COUNTY, N.C. — A fugitive couple connected with the slaying of a woman in January at a furniture plant in Hickory are back in North Carolina to face charges.
Eric Parker, 62, and Tangela Parker, 50, were on the run since Jan. 13 after the fatal shooting at Tangela’s workplace, TCS Designs in Hickory.
The Parkers are suspects in the death of Phelifia “Michelle” Marlow, who was shot at the furniture plant a few days after a workplace dispute.
U.S. Marshals said they worked more than 30 leads stretching across eight states before developing information that the Parkers were staying at a Phoenix, Arizona home under the fake names of Jason and Elizabeth Reardon.
The couple was arrested and faced extradition to North Carolina. They were placed into custody at a home in Phoenix after police got tips about their whereabouts.
After being transferred to the Hickory Police Department on Thursday, Tangela Parker was charged with one count of murder and Eric Parker was charged with one count of accessory after the fact. They are both being held at the Catawba County Jail with no bond.
Manhunt ends in Arizona
When Marshals arrested the Parkers in Arizona, they said the Honda CRV the couple owned was also located at the residence.
“Today marks six months since the tragic murder of Phelifia Marlow,” said Chris Edge, acting U.S. Marshal for the Western District of North Carolina. “I hope on this day, Phelifia’s family may find closure in knowing the Parkers have been apprehended and will finally answer for their crimes against a beloved North Carolinian.”
A nationwide manhunt had been underway since the Jan. 13 killing at TCS Designs.
Investigators believe Tangela Parker is responsible for the murder of 51-year-old Marlow. The shooting happened days after the company suspended Parker for a dispute with Marlow at the plant.
Police were called around 2:30 p.m. the day of the shooting to the nondescript TCS building, where they found Marlow suffering from gunshot wounds. She was rushed to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston Salem, where she later died.
As days of searching turned into weeks, and the Parkers failed to return to their Alexander County home, local officials brought in the U.S. Marshals Service’s Fugitive Task Force. Marshals had offered a $10,000 reward and had been searching for the Parkers, who fled the scene of the crime and headed to Arizona.
Marshals had followed up on 35 tips in eight states but were not able to find the couple until Tuesday. Authorities also said there hasn’t been any activity on the Parker’s bank accounts.
Federal Marshals revealed several new details about the case last month, including that the couple was very resilient -- even panhandling and begging for money after leaving North Carolina.
Marshals said the couple fled in their Honda CRV, living for 11 weeks in their car and taking odd jobs, including working at a ranch, to survive. They had changed the tag on their Honda and had found a room on Craigslist and were renting it at the time of their arrest.
‘A weight lifted off my shoulders’
Marlow’s family gathered Tuesday ahead of the announcement that the Parkers had been arrested. Michelle’s daughter placed balloons at her mother’s gravesite, south of Hickory.
“My mom was -- I know this is going to sound biased -- the greatest person on the planet. Loving, devoted,” Makayla Marlow told Channel 9.
Later in the day, the Marlows got the news about the Parker’s arrest.
“I stopped for probably two minutes, not speaking because I was so baffled,” Makayla Marlow said. “I was asking, ‘Are you sure? Are you 100%? I need definitive proof. Tell me it’s 100%.’ And it was. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.”
Tangela Parker and Marlow were colleagues at TCS Designs, where Marlow worked as an upholsterer. Officials posted the Parker’s photos and descriptions on billboards and asked the public for help during the manhunt.
After the shooting, Makayla Marlow described her mother as her “best friend, (her) rock and (her) support system.” She and her father said Michelle Marlow was well-loved.
“This woman didn’t only hurt her family and friends,” Justin Marlow said of Tangela Parker. “She hurt a community.”
“The arrests of Tangela and Eric Parker in the Phoenix metropolitan area was the direct result of excellent cooperation between local and federal law enforcement agencies,” said U.S. Marshal David Gonzalez for the District of Arizona. “This case and arrests affirm the value of the U.S Marshals fugitive task forces throughout the country.”
Neighbors in the Parkers’ Alexander County community expressed relief on Wednesday that the couple had been captured 2,000 miles away.
“Praise the Lord,” Dana Crouse told Channel 9. “Because at least I didn’t have to worry anymore that they’d come back here.”
“We actually thought they were dead or somewhere up in the mountains,” said neighbor Danny Crouse. “We’ve been praying since all of this happened that they’d find them and bring them to justice. It’s a relief here in the community.”
Eric Parker is accused of being an accessory after the fact. Authorities allege that he drove his wife away from the scene after the shooting. Tangela Parker has been charged with first-degree murder.
The police chief in Hickory told Channel 9 investigators were meeting with the district attorney about bringing the couple back to North Carolina. It is still unclear whether or not the Parkers will fight extradition.
Michelle Marlow is survived by her husband, two daughters and her grandchildren.
(Watch Channel 9′s past coverage in the video below)
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