After a two-day silence, the mother of slain 8-year-old Nicole Parker spoke out on Tuesday, praising friends and authorities for their exhaustive efforts to find her little girl and lashing out at Nicole's accused killer.
Both laughing and crying during an hourlong interview in her Tarzana home, Lori Parker said she would not hesitate to take justice into her own hands if given the opportunity.
"His life isn't worth anything compared to hers," she said of Hooman Ashkan Panah, 22, the man who is accused of raping and murdering Nicole. "But I'd do it just to feel better for the five or 10 minutes."
Still numb from the loss, the 44-year-old mother of four was comforted Tuesday by her boyfriend, Martin Gladstein, and her youngest son, Casey. She choked back tears, saying she could never forgive Panah for allegedly taking Nicole's life.
"She was the sunshine of my heart. She was my only girl. She was my baby."
As Parker spoke, she wrapped her arm around Casey, 9, who sat quietly next to her on the couch.
"I feel pretty sad 'cause I wanted her to know that I love her," Casey said. "Now I feel sick inside."
Parker brightened briefly as she recounted the outpouring of help--the hundreds of people who turned out to scour neighborhoods and hillsides to look for Nicole while she was missing.
"They did a phenomenal job. If anything could have brought Nicole back it would have been the love and support they have shown," she said. "I don't fault anybody for this besides the asshole that killed her."
Though Parker said the 35 hours her daughter was missing were among the worst in her life, she was sure throughout that Nicole would be found alive.
"I never gave up hope, not even when they told me they had found a little girl's body in that apartment," she said. "I was hoping that she was going to have blond hair . . . that it wasn't going to be Nicole."
Nicole's body was discovered late Sunday. She had disappeared Saturday afternoon while playing at her father's Woodland Hills apartment complex, which the little girl would often visit on weekends following the separation of Lori and Edward Parker last March. Lori Parker said Edward Parker was moving out of the apartment Tuesday.
Based on what detectives investigating the case told her, Parker said she believed Nicole did not suffer long.
"I think it was quick," she said. "I had nightmares about her suffering."
Remembering Nicole, Parker laughed as she clutched a photograph of her daughter costumed as a harem girl for a production of "Aladdin" last year at Pepperdine University in Malibu.
"Nicole loved to play-act," she said, adding that the girl's father said she was acting out a scene from the baseball movie "The Sandlot" minutes before she was abducted. Nicole, whose ninth birthday would have been March 23, was excited about her future, which was to include taking her first Communion in May and playing second base on a girls' softball team in the spring. She also enjoyed drawing, her mother said.
"She was a little jock, but she was also very feminine and petite," Parker said. "Somehow she made that combination work."
In the end, she said, it was probably Nicole's outgoing nature that enabled Panah to allegedly lure her into his apartment.
"I think she had probably established him as a friend because she had talked to him a few times," Parker said. "Everybody knew her and kept an eye on her. That's what she was used to."