Adoptive parents say they think missing teen is OK, scared to come forward
Erica Parsons’ adoptive mother says she believes the missing 15-year-old is likely OK and simply too scared to come forward because police are looking for her.
Casey Parsons and her husband, Sandy, spoke with reporters in their home Friday morning, with their attorney, Carlyle Sherrill, present.
Erica has been gone since Nov. 19, 2011, but was reported missing by her older brother, James Parsons, on July 30.
The Rowan County Department of Social Services also has removed the two youngest children from the home.
Casey Parsons said she believes Erica may be aware of the media attention this has brought upon the family and is just scared to say anything.
Investigators say that after initial conversations, the couple have been uncooperative and have not provided accurate information that would help them find the teen.
Casey Parsons told reporters she let Erica leave their Salisbury home to live in Asheville with the girl’s paternal grandmother, Irene Goodman, whom she called Nan. The teen’s biological father, Casey said, is Billy Goodman, Irene’s son. The girl’s biological mother, Carolyn Parsons, was married to Sandy Parsons’ brother.
Casey said Erica visited Irene Goodman twice. The third time, she said, Erica called and said she wanted to stay with Goodman. Casey said she trusted Goodman.
When asked if she believes Erica is still in Asheville, Casey said she does and that the teen is with Goodman.
The couple have had no contact with Erica since around Christmas 2011, Casey said.
She said the family has searched for Erica via social networking site Facebook, but none of them has ever gone to Asheville or contacted Asheville law enforcement.
Casey said Erica’s home life was turbulent because of the violent behavior of older brother James. Erica told her mother once James yelled a lot, but never harmed her. He was charged with harming Casey Parsons and his other siblings.
Carolyn Parsons, Erica’s birth mother, lives out of state now. Reached by telephone, she said she is scheduled to meet with local authorities Monday and has been told not to comment until then.
“What I will say is that I am very concerned about her,” Carolyn Parsons said. “I do love her. I do care about her. I always have, and I always will, and I want her returned safe.”
Casey Parsons said although she and her husband agreed to let Erica stay with her grandmother, they weren’t ready to sign over custody of the child.
The teen had gone to visit her grandmother in September, November and the final visit was in December.
“I feel like I lost her at that point. She wasn’t going to come back,” Casey Parsons said.
She trusted the grandmother and felt Erica would be safe with her.
“But she was happy and she loved Nan. I liked Nan. I really did. She’s a very sweet lady,” Parsons said.
She added that at some point she thought Erica would miss her younger siblings and want to return home.
Casey Parsons said she thought Erica would want to return home and then she later knew the teen liked where she was.
“I guess you could say we had a mutual agreement, she was going to stay there,” Parsons said.
She said the grandmother informed the couple they could visit Erica anytime; however, they have never gone to Asheville. She said they called, but never made a trip to Asheville to visit.
The only search they did was occasionally searching social networking site, Facebook, to see if Erica had a profile page.
Casey said she and her children never found a page under Erica’s name.
At some point Casey called the grandmother, but the phone calls never got through, she said.
“I didn’t know if it was just her phone got disconnected from nonpayment because all it would say was it was not receiving calls at this time,” she said.
She did not have an address for the grandmother, but never feared her daughter was in danger.
“To me, she’s still not missing. She’s not missing as far as I know who she’s with. I still believe she’s with Nan,” Casey Parsons said.
Investigators with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office have been in contact with officers in Asheville regarding the case. The State Bureau of Investigation and the FBI have joined the investigation.
Sgt. Dave Romick with the Asheville Police Department said Friday that his agency is not actively involved in the investigation.
“We’ve communicated a few times back and forth with Rowan County authorities, but that’s about it,” he said.
Romick said Asheville police have not been asked — by law enforcement or the Parsons family — to try to locate Erica Parsons or Irene Goodman.
“We’re not doing anything until we’re asked or directed to by Rowan County or some other law enforcement agency,” he said.
Sheriff’s Capt. John Sifford has said the parents initially provided some information and possible leads to the location of Erica, but investigators determined the information the parents provided was not true.
Sherrill said Wednesday the parents were not being intentionally untruthful, but were providing law enforcement with information that was given to them.
Casey said Friday she believes Irene Goodman was being honest.
Where is the teen?
“I honestly believe she’s still in Asheville with Nan, I really do,” Casey said.
She said she doesn’t believe Irene gave her a fake name and believes the grandmother is who she says she is.
Based on what Erica said, Casey and Sandy believed the teen was living on a farm about 15 minutes from the Biltmore House, but they never received an address for Irene Goodman.
At one point during the interview, Casey said she didn’t believe Erica was necessarily unhappy, but chose to stay with her grandmother because of the material things the woman could provide.
The couple’s attorney, Carlyle Sherrill, said Sandy and Casey Parsons’ home was in turmoil at the time.
Trouble at home
Casey said her son has some psychological problems, was bipolar and suicidal. She does not believe James assaulted or harmed Erica. Erica never said James harmed her, just that he yelled at her.
“We were all a little bit scared of Jamie,” Casey said.
While Casey was in and out of the hospital, it was James who watched his younger siblings, his mother said.
“There was a lot of stress in those last few months,” she said.
James had dinner with the family July 29, a day before reporting to law enforcement his sister was missing. Casey believes her son reported Erica missing as retaliation for having him repeatedly arrested.
In February 2010, James was charged by China Grove Police after he assaulted his brother, Toby, who was 3 at the time. The police report said James bit the child on the arm.
In August 2011, the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office charged James with assaulting his mother; sister, Brooke; and brother, Toby. He also choked the sister’s dog. The warrant said James pulled his mother’s gastrointestinal bag tube, causing it to bleed at the surgical site. He also kicked Casey while she was on the floor. He held up a knife, threatening to slice his brother’s throat. The warrant said James grabbed his sister, Brooke, by the neck.
The 2011 charges against James were dismissed by the court in January 2012 when Casey failed to appear in court, records said.
“He always told me he was going to get me. I never thought he’d do this,” she said.
Law enforcement officers have been to the Miller Chapel Road home numerous times.
On one occasion in June 2012, Brooke was reported missing by a distraught Casey Parsons. Sandy Parsons located the teen and brought her home, according to a Rowan County Sheriff’s Office report.
The most recent call deputies responded to at the home came on June 13 when James reportedly hit his mother on the side of the head with a bat. She did not press charges against him.
Casey Parsons told reporters on Friday that James was asked to leave the home after he “beat me unconscious” and pushed his younger brother against a hallway door.
She said she thought about having law enforcement charge James, but she didn’t want him to go to jail.
“I knew if I did, he wouldn’t have a chance,” she said, becoming emotional.
While talking about the incident, Sandy also became emotional, wiping at his eyes with a tissue.
“I wanted to give him a chance to be able to get a job. And the cops said I could make him stay away. If he had a place to go, maybe he could straighten his life out,” she said.
James is staying with an uncle, Scott Parsons, whom Casey said was the only family member who would take him.
The couple, along with Sherrill, have been invited on the “Dr. Phil” show. The episode is expected to tape Monday.
Erica is described as small for her age. She is Caucasian, 4 feet 5 inches tall, 85-90 pounds, with a thin build. She has brown hair and brown eyes.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office at 704-216-8700.
Timeline of case
Here’s a timeline, gleaned from official reports; comments from Casey and Sandy Parsons and their lawyer; and media reports.
• 1998: Erica Lynn Parsons, just a few weeks old, is taken in by Casey and Sandy Parsons, who have three children of their own. She is the biological child of Sandy Parsons’ brother’s wife, fathered by someone else. They also take in Erica’s three siblings.
• 2000: The Parsonses officially adopt Erica in Cabarrus County. Her siblings had been placed in other homes.
• 1999-2011: The couple has two more children. Casey Parsons is hospitalized several times, some of them for extended stays, she says.
• February 2010: William James Parsons, 16, the couple’s biological son, is arrested for biting his younger brother.
• August 2011: James Parsons is charged with two counts of assault on a female, instigating or promoting animal cruelty and assault on a minor after clashing with his mother, strangling one of the family’s dogs and threatening his 5-year-old brother with a knife, according to Sheriff’s Office reports. Charges are dismissed when Casey Parsons does not appear in court.
• Nov. 19, 2011: The Parsonses take Erica to a McDonald’s in Mooresville to catch a ride to the Asheville home of her biological grandmother, Irene “Nan” Goodman. The couple’s attorney initially said they were given false names by the people who picked up Erica, but they now say they turned her over to Goodman and another woman identified as the girlfriend of Erica’s biological father.
• December 2011: According to the Parsonses, on her third visit to Asheville, Erica calls home and says she doesn’t want to live with them anymore.
• Sometime in 2012: Casey Parsons files a missing persons report for a younger daughter, Brooke.
• July 30, 2013: After his parents kick him out, now 20-year-old James Parsons contacts the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and reports that Erica has been missing for two years and his parents have been cashing her monthly checks.
• August 2013: After undergoing two days of questioning by investigators, the Parsonses hire attorney Carlyle Sherrill.
• Aug. 5, 2013: The Rowan Sheriff’s Office issues a missing/endangered persons alert for Erica.
• Aug. 6, 2013: “Let’s just say we could not find her right now if we had to,” Sherrill says of Erica.
• Aug. 9, 2013: Sherrill confirms that he and the Parsonses have agreed to appear on the “Dr. Phil” Show.