Newsmaker of the Year: Who is Erica Parsons?
In November 2011, a young brown-eyed girl with a wry smile disappeared without a trace. Erica Lynn Parsons was catapulted into what has likely become the most talked about missing persons case in Rowan County history.
Erica’s face has been on the front page of the Salisbury Post, other local and national newspapers, on billboards, missing posters and television talk shows. Her adoptive parents, Sandy and Casey Parsons, have also been thrust into the spotlight after it was determined the couple failed to report the teen missing.
The Salisbury Post editorial staff reviewed the events of this past year and named Erica Parsons, who has made headlines since July, the Newsmaker of the Year for 2013. The Post made several attempts to speak with members of the Parsons family for this story, but they declined.
Until the events following her disappearance unfolded, Erica Parsons was virtually invisible to the world around her. And still, little is known about the teen, whose 16th birthday comes in February.
A missing person
She was reported missing by her adoptive brother, James “Jamie” Parsons, on July 30. James went to the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office with his uncle Scott Parsons, Sandy Parsons’ brother, to speak with law enforcement. James told investigators he had not seen his sister since Nov. 19, 2011. His parents told investigators they believed she was in Asheville with her paternal biological grandmother, Irene Goodman. The couple said they knew the woman as Nan and allowed Erica to live with her in December 2011, after Erica visited twice. Law enforcement and family have since said Goodman does not exist.
Sandy and Casey agreed to an interview with the Post for this story, but canceled three hours before the interview was to take place. Casey Parsons said she and her husband were “on a roller coaster right now.” She also cited ongoing medical problems and two scheduled surgeries as the reason she could not be present for an interview. Casey also said things were difficult for the family because it was Christmas.
The two youngest children — Sadie and Toby — were removed from the home a few days after Erica was reported missing. The two children have since been in the custody of Casey’s parents, Shirley and James Stone.
Casey and Sandy are also in the midst of a custody case to determine if the children will be returned to them. The outcome of the custody case is pending. Sandy and Casey have been the subject of an investigation into Erica’s disappearance, but have not been charged.
Relatives of both Casey and Sandy have spoken to law enforcement about what they witnessed and observed between Erica and her adoptive parents.
Rowan Sheriff’s detectives Chad Moose and Clint Mauldin have heard many of the statements from family and others throughout this case.
Mauldin, who investigates the sheriff’s office special victims’ crimes, spoke recently with a Post reporter. He said, based on statements from those who know Erica, she was very outgoing, but at the same time, very timid and shy.
Mauldin said Erica “acted very sheltered around certain family members,” and clung to “those who showed her certain types of affection.”
Casey has said Erica had a learning disability. Mauldin said the teen struggled with her school work, but “she always tried very hard.” He said much of what investigators looked at through Erica’s school work and writing indicated Erica liked her time in public school.
“She would draw or write letters to other classmates and teachers telling them how much she loved or cared for them,” he said.
Erica was behind in school, but it wasn’t because she wasn’t smart, Mauldin said, but the focus wasn’t always placed on her school.
He said outside of school, Erica was a “very hard worker. She had lots of chores,” and she was very sheltered.
Erica didn’t participate in church groups, sports or other school activities like cheerleading, Mauldin said.
“She wasn’t exposed to it, if it wasn’t in her immediate surroundings,” he said. He said regardless of what Erica was going through with family, she very much loved her family and was very protective of her family.
He said Erica didn’t tell her teachers about what occurred at home.
“She was very brave to go through the things she was going through,” Mauldin said.
Early in the investigation there were accusations that Erica was physically and mentally abused by her adoptive parents. Family members have said they saw bruises on Erica, who rarely interacted with the rest of the family.
The teen was adopted by the Parsonses when she was 2 years old. Erica’s biological mother, Carolyn, was married to Sandy’s brother, Steve.
Carolyn, who lives in Louisiana, said the first and last time she met Erica was Jan. 5, 2011. Carolyn sat down with Erica and the Parsonses at What-a-Burger in Mooresville.
“She was a very shy, timid child. I took that as just being afraid. She didn’t know me and didn’t remember me,” Carolyn said.
The Parsonses and Carolyn spoke about the possibility of Erica moving in with Carolyn. No concrete decision had been made during the visit, which lasted about an hour.
“She seemed as happy about it as I did. She was in a cast with a sling on her arm,” Carolyn recalled.
Carolyn said she did not specifically remember the reason given for the cast, but believes Casey and Sandy said it was that Erica fell out of a tree or hit her arm on a door.
Carolyn admits she now questions whether Erica’s injury was in fact abuse at the hands of Sandy and Casey.
Carolyn said she believes Casey and Sandy did something to Erica because the teen wanted to be with Carolyn.
“They were angry. They had raised her and all of a sudden she meets mommy and she wants to go home with mommy,” Carolyn said.
Carolyn made several attempts after that January meeting to see Erica again, but was stonewalled by Casey.
She has said she hopes Erica is still alive, but also believes Casey and Sandy are capable of harming Erica.
Carolyn has repeatedly issued pleas to Erica to come forward and not be scared.
William Parsons said from the beginning he and his wife, Janet, tried to get a straight answer from his son and daughter-in-law, but never did. He also said he believed something may have happened to Erica. He and his wife declined to speak with the Post for this story, but William Parsons did later speak briefly with a Post reporter.
He said Erica didn’t play with other children and she was also quiet and shy.
Investigators recently searched a storage building located behind William Parsons’ China Grove home. Cadaver dogs were brought to the home to search the building, which is owned and used by Casey and Sandy. A K-9 handler and a dog searched the area around the red storage building and indicated what they believe to be the presence of human remains. Investigators have not said they believe Erica may be dead, but an affidavit, filed with a November search warrant said Erica “may be deceased and her remains concealed at a yet unknown location.”
Casey’s parents, Shirley and James Stone, also declined to speak with the Post. James Stone has said Erica was mean, “Jamie was always after her,” and that she and “Jamie were always fighting.” Stone said Jamie was also mean.
Beyond the family
While family members had very little to say about Erica, it appeared some neighbors didn’t even know Erica existed.
Patti Miller, whom the Post spoke with in August, said then that she never saw Erica at the home. Miller said she saw the older children, but never remembered seeing Erica.
Miller told the Post she only knew Erica existed because Sandy mentioned the teen during a previous conversation.
A former Bostian Elementary School teacher told WBTV’s David Whisenant about the teen who attended the school from August 2003 until July 2004. In 2004, Erica left Bostian Elementary to attend Shadybrook Elementary School in Kannapolis.
The teacher said Erica would “beam” when praised and was hesitant when she thought she may not know the answer to a question. The child would brush her bangs out of her eyes if she felt anxious. She tilted her head to one side and would smile.
Anyone with information into the disappearance of Erica Parsons is asked to contact Lt. Chad Moose at 704-216-8687 or investigator Clint Mauldin at 704-216-8710.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.