Patti Miller got an eyeful Wednesday morning as law enforcement officers began searching the house next door where missing teen Erica Parsons' adoptive parents live.
Erica, 15, has been missing since November 2011. But she wasn't reported missing until July 30 when her adoptive brother, James, contacted authorities.
Investigators with the Rowan County Sheriff's Office, the SBI and the FBI's Charlotte Evidence Response Team served a search warrant at the 218 Miller Chapel Road home of Casey and Sandy Parsons.
“A search of this type is a standard law enforcement technique, and in this case, is one of many investigative tools being utilized in our efforts to locate Erica,” the Rowan Sheriff's Office said in a news release.
Investigators began searching the property around 10:15 a.m. Wednesday.
WBTV, which had a helicopter in the area, also reported deputies were going house-to-house in the neighborhood, as well. Later, the station reported investigators were digging in the backyard and had moved an above-ground pool.
Miller, who has lived at her home for 18 years, said the Parsons family moved into the neighborhood around April 2011.
“This morning has been kind of like a movie. You expect to see things like this on TV, but not in your neighborhood or not next to you,” she said.
Rowan Sheriff's deputies blocked access to Miller Chapel Road for much of the day, except for residents and road crews paving Miller Chapel Road. Those who lived on Miller Chapel Road had to show identification to pass through the roadblock. Officials detoured other vehicles around the area.
Sandy and Casey Parsons maintain Erica went to live with her biological grandmother, Irene “Nan” Goodman, in Asheville. But authorities say they haven't been able to verify that.
Miller said she knew the situation was serious when she saw all of the investigators and Rowan Sheriff Kevin Auten at the scene.
Miller, who spoke with investigators Wednesday morning, said the last week has been “surreal.”
She hopes Erica is found safe, but she doesn't want her returned home.
“If they haven't had a need to find her in 18 months, then I don't think that they necessarily should have her back,” she said.
Miller said she'd seen the other Parsons children, but had never seen Erica. She also said the first summer the family moved in, she never really saw children playing outdoors. Sandy Parsons told Miller that his wife liked to keep the kids at home and liked to keep them safe.
“I knew there was a 13-year-old, but I never saw her,” Miller said.
Miller said she saw investigators bring out papers and a couple of computers, but nothing “large” or of substance.
She also said investigators tore apart a partially unfinished deck at the back of the house.
She said officials searched a garage apartment at the back of the property where son James used to stay before he was asked to leave the home.
Casey Parsons had said earlier she and her husband asked James to leave the home after he physically assaulted her and pushed his younger brother against a hallway door.
Screaming and yelling
Miller said she often heard the family screaming and yelling, but never became involved.
Authorities said Erica's adoptive parents initially cooperated but became “increasingly uncooperative,” and after two days of questioning, they hired attorney Carlyle Sherrill.
Investigators said the Parsonses had been untruthful with them.
The couple said they hired the attorney because investigators' questions turned into accusations. They said they let Erica go to Asheville to stay with her biological grandmother three times in late 2011. The third time, they say, she called and told them she didn't want to come back to Salisbury.
The couple said they haven't been in contact with Erica since around Christmas 2011. Casey Parsons said they tried calling a few times since then, but the calls wouldn't go through. She said they never reported Casey missing or called Asheville police because they believed she was safe.
“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 last week.
Sherrill said the couple have not searched for Erica, but feel their visit to appear on the “Dr. Phil” show for taping this week was their way of placing the search on a national platform.
He joined the couple when they recorded the segment Monday, but it is not expected to air this week.
Sherrill said he did not know when the interview would be shown.
He said he was not permitted to discuss the show, but said the Parsonses “successfully accomplished their purpose of helping institute a national search for Erica.”
Investigators interviewed Casey Parsons while at the Miller Chapel Road home Wednesday, Sherrill said.
They did not have an opportunity to speak with Sandy Parsons, who was also at the home during the search. Sherrill said investigators indicated they still wanted to speak further with Casey and Sandy, but no further interviews had been scheduled.
Sherrill said the search warrant did not detail anything specific, but items that pertained to a missing person search, including blood and DNA.
Sherrill said Casey Parsons asked him to be present and he was at the home while investigators interviewed her. He was there around 11 a.m. until about 1:30 p.m.
Sheila Bennett, who lives on the other end of Miller Chapel Road, said she was familiar with the story, but doesn't know the family.
“It's unreal that it took this long to say the little girl is missing,” she said.
Bennett said it was strange the family didn't report the teen missing sooner.
Bennett said she was blown away by all of the circumstances surrounding the case. “I pray that she's alive. I pray they find her safe,” Bennett said.
She called it a “sad situation.”
The Rowan County Sheriff's Office asked the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to create an age-progression photo of Erica Parsons.
The photo previously released by authorities was taken when Erica was about 13. She's now 15.
A Sheriff's Office spokesman says authorities don't know when the age-progression photo will be available.
The Sheriff's Office said Wednesday morning investigators would conduct a news briefing after they finished searching the home and property. The spokesman later said there would be no briefing and that “specific information regarding the nature of the search or results of the search will not be released in order to protect the integrity of an ongoing investigation.”
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Twitter: www.twitter.com/salpostpotts