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‘Red flags’ on the trail

Hannah Anderson is back home with her father, traumatized from her kidnapping ordeal but alive and recovering after the teenager’s dramatic rescue in the Idaho backcountry.
One can only hope for a similar resolution in the case of a Rowan County girl, Erica Parsons, who was reported missing on July 30 but apparently last lived at home more than a year and a half ago. Her adoptive parents say she voluntarily went to live with her grandmother in Asheville, and family members here have not been in touch with her for some time. They’ve appealed for Erica to come forward — and investigators have asked for the public’s help in trying to determine the 15-year-old girl’s whereabouts.
The public’s help can be crucial in such cases. It may even have saved Hannah Anderson’s life. She was abducted from her Southern California home by a longtime family friend, James DiMaggio, who authorities believe killed her mother and brother. DiMaggio then fled with the girl on a rambling journey that took them first to Oregon and then deep into the Idaho wilderness.
Hannah might still be held captive — or worse — if not for some horseback riders who came across DiMaggio and the girl in the backcountry and realized something didn’t seem right about the pair. One of those passersby was a former sheriff, Mark John, who took note of the other riders’ awkward mannerisms and their inappropriate riding and trail gear. “ … Red flags went up,” John said.
When he and his companions saw news reports about Hannah’s abduction, they made the connection and contacted authorities. That information led rescuers to the girl and DiMaggio, who was killed in a confrontation with FBI officers. Authorities say he apparently had developed an unhealthy infatuation with Hannah. And in a scenario repeated all too often, Hannah’s family apparently did not recognize — or chose to ignore — anything inappropriate in DiMaggio’s attention toward the daughter.
While movie and TV crime dramas often play up dramatic sleuthing or high-tech forensics, it’s often a tip or scrap of information from the public that produces a breaththrough. Authorities searching for Erica Parsons are likely to get more tips in the near future, after her family and their attorney went on the “Dr. Phil” show to talk about her disappearance. Perhaps a viewer can help shed light on the case. Meanwhile, anyone with information should call the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office at 704-216-8700.


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