updated 12/05/2011 AT 5:10 PM ET
•originally published 12/08/2011 AT 8:10 AM ET
As the search for Michelle Parker enters its third week, there has been a break in the case, as Parker’s cell phone has been found.
Investigators brought in Parker’s mother, Yvonne Stewart, to identify her daughter’s iPhone on Wednesday, Central Florida News 13 reports. For now, they are not revealing how, when or where they found the phone, not even to Parker’s family.
It’s a small step in the right direction for a family consumed by the ordeal.
“It’s all I can think about,” Parker’s sister, Lauren Erickson, tells PEOPLE. “It’s all any of us can think about.”
But there are two members of the family who still have no idea Parker is missing: her 3-year-old twins.
Relatives have been careful to shield the toddlers from the news. When they saw the children last week, the family changed out of the “missing” T-shirts with Parker’s face on them.
“We wanted to act normal around them,” says Erickson. “They think Michelle is at work, so they’re doing as well, as you would expect. They don’t know that she’s missing.”
The situation is complicated by the custody issues surrounding the case.
The twins are now with their father, Dale Smith – labeled by police as the primary suspect in Parker’s disappearance.
Last week, a family court judge ruled that, despite suspicions of Smith’s involvement, the children could stay with him.
Parker and Smith appeared together on an episode of The People’s Court bickering over a $5,000 engagement ring she threw over a balcony during an argument.
According to both of them, they had an acrimonious relationship that often became heated. On the day the episode aired, Parker vanished after dropping off the children at Smith’s house. Smith has not been charged.
The couple’s tumultuous relationship has raised eyebrows among Parker’s family.
“When I first heard that she was missing, of course my mind went to Dale,” Erickson says. “I know their history, and they have had a lot of issues. But I really do hope and pray that he had nothing to do with it. He could be totally innocent; I hope he is. But if he knows something, he needs to tell everything that he knows.”
Parker’s family has set up a trust fund to provide for Parker’s children.
“We are all worried about the kids,” says Erickson. “This is tough on all of us, but they’re the ones who need to be with their mother.”