Death still a mystery as waitress' family, friends say goodbye

67-year-old's body found in wooded area last month

Published On: Jun 21 2013 03:59:59 PM EDT   Updated On: Jun 22 2013 08:37:26 AM EDT
ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -

Barbara Parchem's death is still very much a mystery even two and a half months after she was first reported missing.

The 67-year-old's remains were found in a wooded area near the St Johns-Flagler county line.

As investigators continue to search for answers, family and friends are preparing to lay the popular St Augustine waitress to rest.

Parchem's wake was to be held Friday evening, and a large gathering was expected throughout.

The pain of what happened to Parchem is still very present among those who knew her best.

The sadness is clear on Sylvia Murrhee's face. The emotion is even more obvious in her trembling hands as she showed me a gift she received from her Village Inn co-worker and friend Parchem.

"Today I say goodbye to a dear, dear friend, and tomorrow we put her to rest," Murrhee said. "And it's hard because I really don't want to tell her goodbye. But I know I got to because she wouldn't want me to be like this."

Parchem's body was found in April in a remote wooded area with a gunshot wound.

Murrhee and fellow co-worker Joanie McKnight believe saying goodbye to Parchem will be extremely difficult, considering deputies are still searching for who killed her.

"We're still a little unrested that we still don't know, and it's still very hard to understand," McKnight said.

Adding to the challenge and maybe some awkwardness at Friday night's wake, deputies say Parchem's daughter Lilly Ann Chavez is still a person of interest in the investigation. The 39-year-old was arrested last month on unrelated weapons charges, but has since been released.

One possible lead in this investigation is that deputies are waiting for DNA evidence to come back from the crime scene and from Parchem's home. But that could take several weeks.

Parchem's loyal customers at Village Inn are also hurting. Those who couldn't make the memorial stopped by the restaurant Friday.

"This was our way -- because we felt like she knew us from coming here -- so we just wanted to pay tribute to her today," customer Penny Rehling said.

Perhaps the greatest tribute to Parchem is her Village Inn uniform and nametag framed and hanging on the wall of the restaurant for everyone to see how much she was loved and adored.

"When I turn off the alarm in the morning, I say, 'Good morning, Barb.' And that helps me," Murrhee said. "That helps me because I know she's watching."

Parchem's funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Anyone with any information that may help the investigation is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 888-277-TIPS.