George Hale (Photo by Danny Fulgencio)
Lakewood native George Hale was on the way to work one day when his phone rang. He answered as the app on his phone recorded the conversation.
A Hunt County detective was on the line, asking Hale to reveal how he received information about a 1991 case of a missing woman near Lake Tawakoni, about 60 miles east of Dallas.
The detective told the Woodrow graduate that because Hale possessed leaked documents from the sheriff’s office, the integrity of the case was compromised and would likely never go to trial, should they ever find a body. Any sheriff’s office would be passionate about plugging leaks, but the circumstances of Carey Mae Parker’s disappearance made the call more chilling.
The case remains unsolved and is the subject of Hale’s podcast, “Buried.” Since September 2017, he has released episodes at KETR, the Commerce, Texas, NPR affiliate. The station broadcast three episodes last fall. More will be released this spring.
Though Parker went missing in 1991, her family was not aware of any search or investigation for her for nearly 20 years. Her sister Patricia says she filed a missing report months after Parker was last seen. Records are incomplete for that period, but the family filed another report in 2010. Investigations began in 2013.
Parker poses for a family picture with Cody and her three children.
The lack of activity by law enforcement is only part of what makes this a complicated case. There is some discrepancy about where Parker was last seen. The last record of her is when she was booked into the Hunt County jail in February of 1991 after being arrested by the police in Quinlan, a town near Lake Tawakoni, but others say they saw her at a party later that year. In addition, Parker’s brother once picked up a hitchhiker who said that Parker and her car were buried in a metal scrapyard near Quinlan.
The hitchhiker, it turns out, dated Parker’s ex-boyfriend Cody. Cody’s family owned the property she referenced. The scrapyard was where Parker’s car was impounded when she was arrested in 1991. “This remains the craziest story I have ever covered,” Hale says.
Hale’s journalistic credentials separate the podcast from many hopping onto the true crime podcast bandwagon. Before returning to his hometown to work for KETR, Hale spent eight years working for a news agency in the West Bank called Ma’an.
Ma’an News Agency was founded to be a voice separate from the political powers of Palestine, Fatah and Hamas. “Factions controlled the media in almost every way,” Hale says. “It’s a ridiculous way to get your news.”
Hale began as a copy editor, and eventually became the managing editor of the English portion of the organization. He lived in Bethlehem, which is adjacent to a 70-year-old refugee camp called Aida. The camp was full of Palestinians who were expelled from Israel when the country formed in 1948.
Navigating life amidst the Israel-Palestine conflict came with its own hazards. He remembers trying to block tear gas from his apartment that would leak in after neighborhood disturbances. As a result, Hale moved home and started working in public radio.
While working on what was supposed to be a short story for KETR, a resident told him about a woman she believed was buried in a lot in Quinlan, right down the street from the police station. “The more he learned about this case, the less it began to like a two-minute feature,” KETR station manager Jerrod Knight says.
The podcast has taken Hale through the woods looking for bodies, searching for details in meth dens and checking out a community where a biker gang once served as law enforcement.
But the work has paid off. Earlier this year, “Buried” won first place for “Use of Actuality in Production” and “Investigative Report” from the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters.
Hale is encouraged and heartbroken that so many listeners identify with Parker’s story. “It seems that a lot of people really do identify with that level of disappointment,” he says. “Feeling so ignored and neglected by the authorities that are supposed to be helping them.”
Parker’s missing poster.