Teacher's slaying baffles family, friends

Katie Parvu taught third grade, attended church and played the harp at friends' weddings. She went on mission trips to Honduras. Children followed her everywhere.

That's what makes her killing so baffling to family and friends.

The popular 31-year-old Sweetwater Elementary teacher was found strangled last month in her Douglasville townhome, where she lived alone.

"She seemed happier than she'd ever been," her mom, Elizabeth Parvu, told the AJC from South Bend, Ind. "She always loved her job and teaching, but now she was making more friends, good friends. I have no idea what happened to my daughter -- I just know she is gone.

"Who in the world would murder Katie?"

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office arrested Landel Batiste, 25, of Douglasville and charged him with concealing Parvu's death.

Chief Deputy Stan Copeland said Batiste, an "acquaintance" of Parvu, found her body around mid-July but did not tell anyone for several days. When Batiste finally told a friend, that person alerted authorities, who made the discovery July 24, Copeland said.

There were no signs of forced entry. Authorities have not pinpointed what day Parvu was killed.

Batiste is a "person of interest" who has not been linked to the killing, Copeland said.

"We have substantial leads investigators are following up on," he added.

Elizabeth and Ron Parvu, who run a cake decorating business, last saw their daughter July 11. She met them in Nashville to drop off her 3-year-old nephew, Braxton, whom she had treated to a week of fun in Georgia. Every summer, she'd entertain one of her four nephews at amusement parks and museums.

"They're really hurting," Elizabeth Parvu said. "[4-year-old] Bryce said, ‘Katie can't play with us anymore.'"

Parvu grew up wanting to be a schoolteacher. In elementary school she corrected her parents and two sisters whenever they used improper grammar.

"She'd say, ‘Mom, you have to say it right because you never know who's listening,'" Elizabeth Parvu recalled. "She was a stickler."

After teaching in a small New Mexico town, Parvu jumped at the chance to move to metro Atlanta. She taught one year in Clayton County before transferring to Douglas County.

Parvu joined Sweetwater in 2006, teaching kindergarten, second grade and finally third grade. She kept her classroom neat and full of supplies.

In the days since her death, tributes have poured in. One came from the grandmother of one of Parvu's former kindergarten students.

"Grace is now 9 years old and in the 4th grade but Ms. Parvu was and will always be the teacher that made the most impact on her and her life. She molded her into a hard-working and good student and I know this is going to stay with her from now on," Martha Walker wrote.

Grace is among many who can't understand why Parvu was killed.

"How could someone hurt Ms. Parvu?" Walker quoted her granddaughter as saying. "She loved everyone and was so kind to all of us. I loved her and I know God has a wonderful angel. But I still want Ms. Parvu back."

Before every school year, Parvu bought each of her students packs of crayons and markers, a box of pencils and a writing tablet. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial donations be made to Sweetwater Elementary to pay for school supplies.

Memorial services will be held Friday in Indiana and later this month in Douglasville. The local service begins at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 28, at the Hightower Memorial Chapel, 7034 West Broad St.