Heather Mallory's parents say her husband's behavior was odd after her disappearance

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In her own words, Heather Mallory was vivacious and serene. Compassionate, comedic but also a blunt talker at times. The 32-year-old believed artichokes were the best food in the world, was a self-admitted snob about shampoo and loved "snuggling my son and sleeping in when I can."

And while Mallory, formerly of Vancouver, could hold a grudge, it was only for a little while, she wrote in a journal entry a year or two before her death, because "life's too short."

Her father, Steve Mallory, read her words Wednesday after taking the stand in the trial of his son-in-law, Brian Charles Cole.

Cole is charged with the murder of Heather Mallory, whose body was found in a wooded area outside Estacada in July 2010, more than two years after her husband reported her missing. Prosecutors contend that Cole killed Mallory in their apartment after she had stayed out all night, then drove her body out to the Estacada site and tried to cover up her disappearance by reporting her missing.

The defense argues that investigators zeroed in on Cole from the start and failed to investigate other leads or other suspects, including the man with whom Mallory was having an affair.

On Wednesday, both Steve Mallory and his wife, Jeni Mallory, testified that Cole never helped post fliers seeking information about their daughter or searched for her car in the days after she went missing.

In fact, when Cole called them on the day after Heather allegedly left home, he acted strangely, telling them that their daughter was missing -- but never asking if they had talked or seen her, Steve Mallory testified.

After learning she was missing, Heather's parents drove from their Gig Harbor, Wash., home to the Southeast Portland apartment their daughter shared with Cole and their then-3-year-old son. Steve Mallory walked around, looking for clues to his daughter's whereabouts, such as the catering uniform she had come home in. It was nowhere to be found.

And in the bathroom, there were other signs, he said.

The glass in a framed picture of Janis Joplin -- whose songs Heather liked to sing -- was cracked and the towel bar was missing.

"I had a strong suspicion of what had gone on," said Steve Mallory.

The parents already knew of the marital troubles between their daughter and her husband. Jeni Mallory testified that Heather had called her mother several times expressing fear of her husband, who had been arrested in 2006 for striking her. They also knew that the affair was causing problems in the couple's marriage. And financially, the couple was struggling to pay bills, they said.

Cole continued to behave in a way that seemed out of character with a husband worried about his wife, they said. When asked at a news conference what message Cole wanted his wife to hear, his reply seemed angry, Jeni Mallory said, and was "something like, 'Heather, you need to get home and take care of your 3-year-old son.'"

Despite the parents' suspicions, they remained in contact with Cole, who moved to Idaho to live near his mother a few months after his wife's disappearance. They wanted to stay close to their grandson, River, who now lives with them.

Under cross-examination, Jeni Mallory conceded that Cole's message to his wife could have been designed to appeal to his wife's love for their son since the two were having marital problems. Jeni Mallory also agreed with Russell Barnett, Cole's lawyer, that Cole was a good father from what she had seen and facilitated their visits.

The testimony in the trial, now in its third week, turned emotional at times. Jeni Mallory recalled the day last July when two Portland police officers showed up at the door of the couple's home to personally tell them their daughter's body was found.

"I was overjoyed," said Jeni Mallory, her voice choking up. "Strange as it may be, I was overjoyed to know that -- to know where she is."

And at times, the mother stumbled between present tense and past tense in talking of her daughter.

"Heather is," she said, in starting to respond to a question about her daughter's personality. She then stopped herself. "Heather was," she continued, but then stopped again to explain to jurors: "Heather is -- in my heart."