Retiring search team leader has infamous resume of cases - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Retiring search team leader has infamous resume of cases

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - After 25 years with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, the man in charge of the search and rescue detail is retiring.

Sergeant Don Parker has been right in the middle of some of the biggest operations in recent history. For the last eight years of his 25-year career, he's played a high-stakes game of lost and found.

"The first thing is where. The second thing is who," he said.

More than 300 times in Parker's career, he was in charge of search and rescue missions, some with the pressure of the national spotlight.

"There have some extraordinarily complex searches -- obviously Amber Dubois, Chelsea King, Mickey Guidry," he said.

Guidry disappeared in 2009 in the Anza-Borrego Desert. Even though the 16-year-old is still missing, during the investigation Don found love and married Mickey's mother Missy.

"At first it was professional, we were exchanging information about the areas that had been searched, then we just hit it off, and the rest is history," Parker said.

Parker says his career has simply slipped right by. An old banana peel he found in his car symbolizes a life on the run searching for others.

Although Parker loves the lighter side of life, he acknowledges the gravity of his post.

"There were times when we saved people's lives. Right out here in East County, a gentleman named Edward Barber, we saved his life," he said.

Although Don and Missy are moving out of California, he takes comfort in knowing his team will continue to search for Mickey and others.

"We never stop looking for folks. I can give you names of all our missing people," he said. "When you're able to give somebody back to their loved ones, it's tremendous."

Don's last day on the job will be March 13. He was always very gracious to the media and a very likeable person. Two-hundred people showed up to his retirement party.

According to his supervisors, Parker's special talent was motivating his 240 search and rescue volunteers. Parker says his secret was never asking the volunteers to do something he wouldn't do himself.

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