One year later
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 30, 2014
A year ago, no one knew much about Erica Lynn Parsons, a chubby-cheeked little girl pictured on a missing/endangered poster.
The briefly worded poster was released by the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office after the young girl was reported missing July 30, 2013, by her adoptive brother, James “Jamie” Parsons.
The 20-year-old biological son of Casey and Sandy Parsons told investigators he’d not seen his sister since Nov. 19, 2011.
Since Jamie’s revelation to authorities, the Parsonses have been thrust into a maelstrom of conflicting tales. Casey declined to be interviewed for this story, saying she was not feeling well after a hospital visit.
The pair have not been charged.
The couple hired Salisbury attorney Carlyle Sherrill to represent them after two days of questioning by law enforcement.
Investigators have said that from the very beginning, none of the information provided to them by Casey and her husband, Sandy, was true. Officials have said the couple were consistently uncooperative. The Parsonses deny that.
Casey and Sandy initially told detectives they gave Erica permission to live in Asheville with the teen’s biological paternal grandmother, Irene Goodman.
The Parsonses said Goodman, whom they knew as Nan, contacted the family in July 2011.
Casey told a Post reporter she and Erica met Goodman at a McDonald’s in Mooresville. She said eventually Erica didn’t want to return to Salisbury, so they allowed her to stay. Investigators and the family of Billy Goodman, Erica’s biological father, later confirmed Irene Goodman does not exist.
A few days after investigators began looking into Erica’s disappearance, Rowan County Department of Social Services removed the two youngest children, Sadie and Toby, from the couple’s Miller Chapel Road home.
The Parsonses pointed the finger at Erica’s biological mother, Carolyn Parsons, who was married to Sandy’s brother, Stevie.
Jamie Parsons distanced himself from his parents, saying only a few words to certain media outlets, but maintained his parents were abusive to Erica.
Jamie recently told a WBTV reporter he didn’t witness physical abuse, but he just “went along with what people were saying.”
He’s recently apologized to his parents for reporting Erica missing and saying his parents mistreated Erica.
Sheriff Kevin Auten said Jamie had not made such a statement to law enforcement officials.
Other family members have said they witnessed mental and physical abuse against Erica by both Sandy and Casey.
Neighbors said they’d never seen Erica since the couple moved into their Miller Chapel Road home in April 2011. The Parsonses said Erica was home schooled, and Sandy said the children rarely played outdoors.
Robin Ashley, Casey’s sister, at one point took custody of Erica for about eight months. Casey resumed custody after she became afraid the Department of Social Services would find out she was still accepting money for Erica even though the teen was not living in her home.
Warrants said bank records show the Parsonses continued to cash checks for Erica’s care after the girl had left the home.
Casey and Sandy have said they continued to take the money because Erica’s health insurance was tied to the payments.
Up until a few months ago, Robin Ashley had temporary physical custody of Sadie and Toby, the youngest children. Casey and Sandy have been allowed to see their children during weekly supervised visits.
The two children now appear to be with Janet and William Steve Parsons, Sandy’s father and stepmother.
According to Casey’s sister, Tammy Gray, the children, “love Janet and Steve. Janet is good for them.”
She said Casey has “brainwashed” Sadie, whom Gray said had been “totally out of control and slapping Robin.”
Ashley did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.
Gray has been very vocal about her desire for the children to not be returned to her sister and brother-in-law.
She said the family made several calls to get social workers involved and contacted law enforcement, urging them to begin an investigation into alleged abuse.
Clint Mauldin, a former Rowan sheriff’s investigator who worked on the case, has said he had not been in contact with the two sisters. Mauldin recently left to take a job in the banking industry.
Gray said she felt the case would languish and “grow cold” with Mauldin’s departure. The sisters told a television news reporter they felt betrayed by Mauldin’s departure.
Mauldin said he was confident in the remaining investigators working on the case.
He also said he felt betrayed because the women never reported Erica missing in two years.
Gray disagrees, saying she and her sister, Robin, contacted social services many times, but weren’t being heard. Gray blames DSS.
She also believes the case hasn’t been handled right from the beginning.
Gray said she fears Sadie will have “these problems” as long as the children are allowed to continue to see Sandy and Casey.
The investigation into Erica’s disappearance made national headlines and the couple were even guests on the syndicated “Dr. Phil” show.
During the two-part special, Sandy took a lie detector test with the results showing deception. Casey declined to take the test, saying she was in pain from a recent surgery. She also turned down an offer to take the lie detector test later.
During a search of the Parsonses Salisbury home, investigators found red stains they tested for blood. Those test results have not been revealed.
The couple were evicted from the Miller Chapel Road home by Sandy’s father, William, who owned it. William Parsons said his son and daughter-in-law owed more than $26,000 in back rent, repairs and damages. The family settled out of court.
The Parsonses moved to Fayetteville.
Shortly after the eviction, fire investigators were called to the home for a kitchen fire.
Investigators determined the fire was accidental. A microwave was wired incorrectly, causing the wires to superheat and spread, catching a wall on fire, officials said.
The State Bureau of Investigation and the FBI joined the investigation, but neither they nor sheriff’s officials can answer the question: Where is Erica?
Investigators searched Sandy Parsons father’s property in China Grove. Rowan detectives searched a storage shed that only Sandy and Casey had access to. They seized teeth, a vacuum and vacuum parts, a hammer, a videotape, and school reports.
Auten said the case will never be closed.
“We will keep this case open until we find Erica,” he said.
Local investigators, he said, are doing “everything we can along with the FBI and SBI to find her and determine what happened.”
Carolyn, Erica’s biological mother, also holds out hope that one day Erica will be found.
Carolyn has moved back to North Carolina from Louisiana and for now is staying with a friend. She has planned a balloon release and candlelight vigil from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at Granite Lake Park, 500 N. Salisbury Ave., Granite Quarry.
She’d hoped to hold the vigil today, on the anniversary of the day Erica was reported missing, but she felt she’d get better participation on Friday.
Carolyn said she plans to keep Erica’s name in the public eye until “somebody does something.”
“Every day a face is not shown or comment is not made, that’s a day that’s lost,” she said.
She wants someone to “produce” Erica.
Carolyn said she’s been asked to produce Erica, but she said she’s not seen her daughter since January 2011.
She said she gave Erica up for adoption by the Parsonses because she hoped they could give her a better life. She regrets her decision.
“I hope and pray every day that she is (alive),” Carolyn said.
She said she wants Erica to know her mother loves her.
Carolyn also believes the case was not “handled correctly from the beginning.”
She believes more pressure should be placed on Sandy and Casey.
Carlyle Sherrill, the Parsonses attorney, said this year has been “surreal.”
Sherrill said he’s felt more like his client’s managers than their attorney, “managing their interviews, their schedules, dealing with the media instead of judges.”
When asked if he would change anything or even allow Casey and Sandy to take part in that initial interview with media, Sherrill said he didn’t make the decision.
“Casey decided she wanted to tell their side, and she wanted me there,” Sherrill said.
Sherrill said he prepped the couple before that initial interview with the Post, telling them, “If you have anything you do not want anybody to know, you better not talk to them.”
A Post reporter asked Sherrill to clarify his statement, and he said he meant if they “did have something to do with a criminal offense that would arise from it.”
He said people have jumped to conclusions about his clients, but says there’s nothing he can do about it.
A $35,000 reward for information leading to the location or return of Erica remains in place.
Anyone with information into the disappearance of Erica Lynn Parsons is asked to contact the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office at 704-216-8700 or Crime Stoppers at 1-866-639-5245.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.